HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Gun control advocates rallying at the Pennsylvania Capitol is not new, but Thursday was a big day for them.
The State House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on preventing gun violence in a decade, bringing hundreds of supporters together, hopeful that changes could finally be coming.
“He was murdered in his bed covered in blood,” said Jenny Garcia, a mom who lost her son to gun violence.
Several moms spoke out in mourning.
“My son was the first homicide in 2019 in Allentown,” one mom said. “He was murdered July 16, 2017,” said another.
The names of their loved ones and the dates of their losses are different, but they all share the same concerns. All of these moms blame their grief on guns.
“Lawmakers, change your laws. I am so tired of seeing my children laying on the ground,” a mom said.
Gun control rallies aren’t new and were mostly ignored by the Republican-controlled legislature. But now, Democrats control the House.
“There’s not only thoughts and prayers. There’s action and we are here to get the work done,” said Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton.
“The time is now to act to end gun violence in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Arvind Venkat (D-Allegheny County).
New Pennsylvania Rep. Venkat is an emergency room doctor who has treated gunshot victims but says his fix wouldn’t take firearms away from law-abiding owners.
“I want red flag laws, safe storage laws requirements on reporting lost and stolen firearms, and closing any background check loopholes,” Venkat said.
Republicans say Democrats’ singular obsession with guns ignores the broader causes of violence and solutions to address it.
And Republicans argue that more enforcement is better than more laws.
“Pennsylvania has one of the most stringent gun background check laws in the entire country,” said Jason Gottesman, House GOP spokesman. “We would say that they need to be taking tough on crime laws, we already have gun laws already on the books and take them seriously. You have prosecutors in Philadelphia who have been instructed to not prosecute gun crimes.”
And there’s Pennsylvania’s constitution, which provides more protective gun rights than the United States Constitution.
“I don’t think there’s a constitutional barrier to this, I think it’s a matter of political will,” Venkat added.
So the gun question in Harrisburg — which has new members, new leaders, and a sympathetic governor — can political will bend to the motherly wail?
While many remain frustrated as the debate continues inside the capitol, the death toll continues to mount outside of it.