Moms, politicians take aim at abusers

A bipartisan mix of Pennsylvania state representatives stood on the steps of the Historic Chester County Courthouse Thursday mornng in favor of a bill that would require domestic abusers to turn in their firearms. The event was called by Moms Demand Action.

A sparse crowd, mostly women wearing the red Moms Demand Action T-shirts, applauded sporadically as state Reps. Carolyn Comitta — the lone Democrat — and Republicans Eric Roe, Warren Kampf and Duane Milne spoke out in support of HB 2060.

“We’re urging the General Assembly to keep firearms away from convicted domestic abusers,” said Laura Fletcher of MDA.

Politicians and activists call on the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to pass HB 2060.

She said the group’s goal is to reduce the amount of gun violence while still respecting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“We’re not anti-gun,” she said. “Many of us, including myself are gun owners. We are passionately against gun violence.”

Fletcher then told the story of a Hunterdon County woman who was shot in the legs while visiting her ex-husband’s parents. He entered, shot her “to slow her down,” Fetcher said. He shot and killed the couple’s 2-year-old son before turning the gun on himself and later died.

There had been a Protection From Abuse Order and the gun used was being stored in the parents’ home. Fletcher said a law such as HB 2060 could have prevented the deaths.

HB 2060 is a domestic violence safety bill that requires those convicted of domestic violence to turn in their firearms to police, a federally licensed gun dealer or their attorney within 24 hours of a conviction. Under current law, they have up to 60 days to comply, depending on the circumstances. The current law also allows those convicted to give up their firearms to a relative or friend.

A similar bill to HB 2060, SB 501, unanimously passed in the state Senate earlier this year.

Roe, R-158, of East Marlborough Township, said before the event that the conviction could simply be a judge issuing a Protection From Abuse order.

Roe later told those attending that he lost a constituent three months ago because of domestic violence. He said Stephanie Burtnett Williams was shot by her husband who had been abusing her for decades.

Kampf called the bill “totally common sense. We’re talking about taking guns immediately from a convicted domestic abuser. So, it’s totally common sense and the law must catch up and must protect people. And it’s bipartisan.”

State Rep. Eric Roe fights emotions while talking about a constituent who was killed by an abusive husband.

Referencing the unanimous passage of the Senate version, Kampf said “That means it’s bipartisan bill in the truest sense. In the end, we just need to get this done. Who could be against it?”

He said he is confident that the measure will pass when it comes up for a vote later this month.

“We’re all working together to save people and to put in place laws that are common sense,” Comitta said. “We must make this a priority. This is not a complicated bill. This is a complete no-brainer.”

She then made reference to “young people across the country who have been speaking out against gun violence. We might not be here talking about House Bill 2060; there might not have been bills already passed in Florida had the Parkland students, and all the young people across your country not said enough is enough. You are either standing up for the right of people to harm someone, or you are standing up to protect children.”

Comitta also addressed members of the House — all of whom are up for re-election — saying that “Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support this policy. Eighty-two percent of likely voters in Pennsylvania, including 88 percent of gun-owning households” support this type of legislation.

Milne also called HB 2060 a common-sense bill. “I can’t believe it hasn’t been done yet,” he said. “I’d be stunned if we don’t get this passed.”

He noted the bill’s bipartisan nature by pointing to the fact that he was wearing a purple tie and that Roe was wearing a purple T-shirt.

“This is not a Republican red issue; it’s not a Democrat blue issue. This is a bipartisan morphing of common sense for all political ideologies,” he said. “The purple symbolizes people of all sides trying to work together to get some greater good done.”

Milne said the bill was not about the Second Amendment, but one of basic public safety and he, as did Comitta, invoked the school shooting in Florida earlier this year as part of his reason for support. He told the audience that he was taking his son to the school bus for the first day of seventh grade when his son turned to him and asked, “Is my school safe?”

“That hit me in the heart like I’ve never experienced before,” he said.

The bill has 37 co-sponsors, 22 Democrats and 15 Republicans. One local co-sponsor who did not attend was Stephen Barrar. However, in a telephone interview Friday, Barrar said the bill “is a reasonable measure to protect victims of domestic violence by taking guns away from the abusers.”

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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