PA Senate Judiciary Second Amendment Rights Hearings Pt 1

September 26, 2019

by: Frank Tait

The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by ostensibly pro-gun Senator Lisa Baker, held 2 days of hearings on Behavior Health/Second Amendment Rights/Gun Related Issues.  There is a lot of material to cover here, so this will be broken into multiple posts (I think 5).

At the end of day 1, we got a major win as the Speaker of the house, Republican Rob Kauffman said that "I don't have any intention of bringing further gun bills before the committee any more this year."  

Holding these hearings was driven by the Bloomberg funded Moms, Everytown and Ceasefire.  They got way more than they expected.  The Second Amendment community rallied like never before.  Organizations like Firearms Owners Against Crime (FOAC), Gun Owners of America (GOA)Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association (PAFOA), The Allegheny County Sportsmen's League, Lehigh Valley Tea Party, and Open Carry Pennsylvania and many other organizations put out calls to action and we showed up!  

Second Amendment supporters, many open carrying, were outside protests and we packed the hearing room.  For the Tuesday hearings, we were there early and outnumbered the anti side about 9 to 1 in the hearing room.  The head of Ceasefire PA was visibly shaken by the pro-firearm community turnout, as from the several previous events where we encountered her, at anti organized rallies, they were in their echo chamber and had large numerical superiority.  They were obviously not used to the Second Amendment community showing up like this.  Anti-firearm media bias was also in view.  A local TV station came into the hearing room and sought out the head of Ceasefire to take her into the hall for a video interview.  When the producer was challenged by one of the FOAC board members in attendance as to why none of the leaders of the pro-firearm side were going to be interviewed, he said that their reporting was balanced because they interviewed someone outside...

Day 1 was a focus on mental and behavioral health issues. There were pro-firearm and anti-firearm Senators on the dais.  Only one of the eight first day's panel were pro-firearm, Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center and Charles Gallo, PhD. A key focus on this panel were Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) or Red Flag laws.  Some Senators were also trying to tie safe storage laws to suicide prevention. The initial focus was on Suicides, with statistics cited that 70% of gun related deaths are suicides, and that suicide attempts with a firearm are more lethal than other methods of suicide.

To give you a sense of the tone of the questioning, Senator Art Haywood asked the 2 Temple University Trauma surgeons "have they ever seen a good guy with a gun stop a suicide."  Even the doctors were stunned by the question.

One positive is that there was a frank discussion about the gaps in the reporting requirements for Pennsylvania's 302 process (voluntary and involuntary mental health commitment) and the need for tighter reporting and better police training.  The Lt. Col from the PA State Police repeatedly made the point the background checks are only as good as the data in the system. 

Dr. Lott and Charles Gallo made the points that Pennsylvania's 302 process already addresses those in crisis and that any extreme ERPO or red flag law would be redundant and violate the persons civil and due process rights.  The 302 process properly focuses on the person and removing the person from access to weapons where they could do harm to themselves or others.  This process required a certified mental health professional to evaluate the person protecting their rights.

Case in point, an involuntary commitment makes you a prohibited person and ineligible to posses or purchase a firearm, while a voluntary commitment does not and how the police report the event has life changing consequences and many law enforcement are unaware of the implications of the distinction.

Another key there was the lack of qualified medical personnel and a shortage of treatment facilities.  Several panels were pretty transparent in asking the Senators for more funding to address these needs.

The time management also showed bias as Dr's Lott and Gallo were squeezed into a 10-12 minute slot while earlier anti-firearm panels were allowed to run long.  There were 11 Senators there for most of the hearing and only 3 Senators there for Dr's Lott and Gallo.

Bottom line, the deck is stacked against the pro firearm rights community.  Legislature, media and the determination and funding of the anti groups.  But today grassroots prevailed.  We were informed of this hearing.  Calls to action went out from organizations that are dedicated to support our rights and we responded, many driving for more than half a day to attend. 

Everyone that showed up was committed to protecting our rights.  We come from different walks of life, but we believe in our constitutional republic form of government and the bill of rights, especially the second amendment.  And we actively participate in our government, reminding our elected officials by our presence inside the hearing room and outside the capital by the fountain today and our calls and letters, that they work for us and that they took an oath to defend the constitution of the United Stated and the State of Pennsylvania.  

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5