Will lawmakers take action on gun violence?

  • Ed Mahon

With mass shootings in Texas and Ohio this weekend,The Trace provides some good context for what exactly classifies as a mass shooting, what percentage of gun deaths they account for and what impact banning military-style weapons would have on curtailing future tragedies. –Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter

Some Pa. lawmakers urge action

John Locher / AP Photo

Sherie Gramlich reacts during a vigil for victims of a mass shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping complex Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas.

  • This weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso (which left at least 20 dead) and Dayton (which left at least 9 people dead), on top of the 3 killed last Sunday in Gilroy, California, are yet another reminder that every public setting in the United States could be the scene of a similar attack.

  • Nicholas Cumer, a graduate student at Saint Francis University in Cambria County, was one of the people killed in Ohio, the Associated Press reports. An internship program with the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance took him to Ohio.

  • The shooting prompted reactions from Pennsylvania elected officials, including Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, a Montgomery County Democrat who supports universal background checks and other firearms restrictions. She called on fellow lawmakers to take action. “When will enough be enough?” she wrote on Twitter.

  • Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County also took to Twitter to urge action: “It is time to put aside differences and change our laws and policies to address these threats and prevent these horrific acts from occurring. Hate in all of its forms must end,” he wrote.

  • With the school year approaching, concerns about the safety of students led many states to boost funding for school security. Keystone Crossroads’ Avi Wolfman-Arent took a deep look at how Pennsylvania schools planned to spend about $40 million in competitive grants for safety and security. His reporting is based on an open records request to the state and information from 231 districts, charter schools and technical schools.

  • So what’s on the spending list? Security cameras, counseling and mental health services, school resource officers and some things that defy easy characterization (such as yoga).

  • The state created what Wolfman-Arent calls an “unprecedented flood of safety and security cash” in the wake of school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

  • U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from York County, has repeatedly resisted calls for increased gun restrictions and says “assault weapons” is a political phrase. He plans to host a four-hour, school safety training seminar on Tuesday with the U.S. Secret Service and more than 130 educators, counselors, administrators and resource officers. Perry mentioned the training session during a recent town hall. “We’re trying to take steps here without infringing on the Constitution,” he told the crowd.

Best of the rest

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Members of the group Human Rights Coalition speak at a rally Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 at Department of Corrections headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.

  • A prisoners rights advocate said inmates are being kept in solitary confinement for months or years, despite rules that only allow them to be confined up to 90 days, WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports. Brett covered a Friday protest in Cumberland County where speakers said they were there to support 11 prisoners who were on hunger strike in July at State Corrections Institute Fayette.

  • A borough in Chester County passed a plastic-bag ban last month, despite  a state moratorium on that type of legislation, according to Vinny Vella of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Right before I said yes, I basically thought, ‘What the hell, it’s the right thing to do,’” said Don Braceland, a member of borough council. The ordinance doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2020.

  • Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that makes it easier to remove guns from domestic abusers, but individuals believed to be a threat to a loved one can still slip through the cracks. A recent story from Mike Argento of the YDR shows one way: In 2016, police charged Courtney Stewart with simple assault and harassment. But the simple assault charge, the more serious one, was later dropped, making it legal for him to keep his guns. Last week, the York County man used one of his guns to fatally shoot his wife, before taking his own life.

Subscribe to The Contextour weekday newsletter
Up Next
The Context

Pennsylvania's new $25M problem