Pittsburgh activists and officials call on lawmakers to pass gun-reform measures | Blogh

Pittsburgh activists and officials call on lawmakers to pass gun-reform measures

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Mayor Bill Peduto and CeaseFire PA's Shannon Williams - PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • Photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Mayor Bill Peduto and CeaseFire PA's Shannon Williams
Thanks to advancements in technology, many smartphones can only be accessed through fingerprint recognition. Why can't the same technology be applied to firearms?

It's one of several questions Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto posed at a press conference earlier today on gun violence. Surrounded by local activists and elected officials, Peduto proposed a number of possible solutions for reducing gun violence in the wake of recent mass shootings like the Orlando,Fla., attack earlier this month where 49 were killed. 

"In no other situation in this country do 30,000 people die every year of something we can identify and we simply say there's nothing we can do about it," said Peduto. "There are common-sense solutions and small steps we can take to lower that number."

Today's event comes a week after House Democrats in Washington, D.C., staged a sit-in on the House floor to call for a vote on two pieces of gun-reform legislation. One, dubbed, "no fly, no buy" would prevent suspected terrorists on the federal no-fly list from purchasing a firearm. The other would ensure universal background checks on all gun sales, closing a loophole that allows some private sales without a background check.

Last week's sit-in was preceded by a nearly 15-hour filibuster on June 15 spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut in an effort to compel a vote on a "no fly, no buy" measure and expanding background checks. The measures were voted down in the Senate on June 20.

"The ball is in your court now," said U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle, who represents Pittsburgh and participated in the sit-in. "[Your representatives] need to hear from you. If you live in their districts, you need to call them on the phone and say 'we want you to vote; we want a vote on gun control.'"

The event was part of the National Day of Action to Disarm Hate, an effort to maintain the momentum spurred by recent demonstrations at the federal level. But today's speakers also highlighted legislative steps lawmakers can take locally.

In 2008, Pittsburgh City Council passed their own measure to combat instances of gun violence like the most recent local example in Wilkinsburg, where six were killed in April. That measure, the city's lost- and stolen-gun ordinance, would require gun owners to report if their guns are lost or stolen.
 
It was aimed at straw purchasing: when a person purchases a firearm for someone who is legally prohibited from obtaining one. Under the ordinance, gun owners who do not report their weapons lost or stolen would be fined. But more importantly, advocates of the ordinance say police would be able to track straw purchasers who claim their gun was lost or stolen only after it has been used to commit a crime.

To date, the city says they have not implemented the ordinance under threat of lawsuit, despite promises after it passed to do so. In 2013 while he was running for mayor, Peduto in fact pledged to enforce it. In 2014 the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a law that would allow the National Rifle Association to sue municipalities with gun ordinances like Pittsburgh's.

However, that law was overturned by the Commonwealth Court last year, and last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the decision.  

"The Supreme Court struck down [the 2014 law] a few days ago," City Council President Bruce Kraus said at today's press conference. "And yet I'm told by CeaseFire PA that action is already mobilizing to reintroduce it in some way, shape or form so our federally elected and state elected [officials] can punish local elected [officials] like my self and like my mayor who are willing to stand up and speak for you and say enough is enough."

The city has not indicated whether they will implement the lost and stolen ordinance now that the 2014 law has been defeated. Kraus did not respond to a request for comment. But according to an article by The Morning Call, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski plans to reinstate his city's ordinance, which was enacted in 2008, the same year Pittsburgh passed theirs.

At today's event, several victims and those impacted by gun violence spoke in an effort to persuade lawmakers to pass gun-reform measures. Among them was Rev. Glenn Grayson, a staunch gun control advocate whose passion for the cause was bolstered when his son Jerron was shot and killed in 2010.

"Today is more than just a photo op. It's a call to action against gun violence," Grayson said. "Our lives will never be the same again because of gun violence. Too many individuals whether mentally ill, or straw purchasers [have access to] an assault weapon that takes lives with a hundred rounds. It makes no sense to you or to me."

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