For Immediate Release:
May 27, 2022
For More Information:
Adam Garber, CeaseFirePA Education Fund Executive Director, (267) 515-1220, firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Fleitman, CeaseFirePA Education Fund Western PA Manager, (412) 426-5148, email@example.com
“We Won’t Stand For It”
Hundreds Demand Action at “Uvalde to PA End Gun Violence Rally” with Governor Wolf
Philadelphia — Pennsylvanians today were united in fury at the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, and the constant torrent of shootings ongoing in communities across the Commonwealth. They stood together at the “Uvalde to Pennsylvania End Gun Violence Rally” to decry the fact that for 1,323 days, Republican legislative leaders have actively blocked any effort in Harrisburg to stem the tide of gun violence.
“Guns kill more Pennsylvania children than anything else because too many legislators have decided that has to be their fate. We won’t stand for it. It’s not a law of nature – it is the law of man. And that means we can change it, but only if we refuse to accept any less from every elected official in Pennsylvania. At CeaseFirePA, we will not stop until everyone can live free from gun violence,” said Adam Garber, Executive Director at CeaseFirePA Education Fund who led the event..
A coalition of gun violence prevention organizations, community groups, faith leaders, gun violence survivors, and elected officials organized the rally in 36 hours following the brutal slaying of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School. Two days before, Leader McClinton used an unusual legislative procedural mechanism, known as a discharge resolution, to force a vote on an assault weapons ban, safe firearm storage, extreme risk protection orders and empowering local leaders to protect communities. Majority Leader Ward, President Pro Tem Corman, Speaker Cutler, Majority Leader Benninghoff offered thoughts and prayers after the shooting instead, but denied any action.
“Too many communities here and across the nation have known the terror of a mass shooting, and too many communities deal with gun violence every day that may not make nationwide headlines but still leave fear, grief, and heartbreak in their wake. Gun violence has become entrenched in our nation, and the fact that our legislators at the state and national levels seem to be just fine with that is the greatest tragedy of all,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “I am heartbroken. I am angry. But I refuse to give up on calling on our lawmakers to enact common sense legislation that protects Pennsylvanians.”
“When will we act? How many children in Texas, shoppers in Buffalo, or churchgoers in California need to die before we act? How many of our neighbors in southwest Philadelphia, or Shippensburg, or York County have to be impacted by gun violence before we can even debate commonsense firearm legislation in the state House? Thoughts and prayers are not enough – we need action. We are demanding action, and we will not stop until we take steps to stem gun violence across Pennsylvania,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Joanna McClinton.
“I refuse to accept a reality where our children have to fear for their lives every time they go into the classroom. Every Pennsylvanian deserves to feel safe at home, at school, and in their community – and I know we can achieve that while upholding Pennsylvanians’ rights and traditions,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “I will work every single day to protect our children and make our communities safe from gun violence.”
The advocates and officials are calling for a host of solutions, including four bills that were blocked this week by Republican House leadership in Harrisburg:
- Banning assault weapons (House Bill 770) to prevent the purchase of weapons of war that have no place in our communities, and are now almost singularly responsible for the mass atrocities that too routinely take place at schools, houses of worship, grocery stores, and other public places where Pennsylvanians should not have to fear for their lives.
- Creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders (House Bill 1903) to give family members and law enforcement a mechanism to temporarily remove access to firearms until a homicidal or suicidal individual in crisis gets the help they need. Nineteen states have such a law, including Connecticut, which saw a 13.7% reduction in suicides from this policy. Other states such as California, Florida, Maryland, and Vermont have successfully used ERPOs to disarm individuals who have made serious threats or shown credible warning signs that they were about to commit a mass shooting.
- Requiring the safe storage of firearms in the home (House Bill 699) to prevent unintentional shootings of and by young children, reduce youth firearm suicide, and make it harder for would-be school shooters to obtain weapons. 27 states have a safe storage law.
- Empowering local governments to protect their communities (House Bill 1538) by loosening state preemption and explicitly allowing local governments to pass and enforce gun violence prevention ordinances.
Other needed gun violence prevention legislation include:
- Stopping illegal firearm trafficking by requiring reporting of lost or stolen firearms (Senate Bill 217/House Bill 980). An analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer found stolen weapons were fueling rising violence, with reports rising 38% in the last two years.
- Instituting Universal Background Checks (Senate Bill 88/House Bill 235) to close the gap that allows for the private purchase of long guns – like the AR-15 style rifles most commonly used in mass shootings – without any background check.
Notable quotes from other speakers at the rally include:
“The regulation of guns and firearms is a widely supported and bipartisan proposal – yet most legislation never moves in the Senate, typically fated to die in committee. Antiquated rules prevent bipartisan solutions from moving forward,”said Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D – Delaware & Montgomery). “To live one’s daily life free of gun violence is not a partisan issue, it’s a moral and constitutional right.”
“The violence has created trauma obstacles in our youth’s lives that hinders their cultivating journey. We must free their path forward through our own action so they can thrive,” said Rickey Duncan of the NOMO Foundation.
“More children have been killed going to school than law enforcement officers going to work. The Second Amendment does not trump American children’s constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.,” said Movita Johnson-Harrell who started the Charles Foundation after her son Charles was murdered and continue the work after losing her son Donte.
“Jewish tradition teaches: “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds” and we understand that neighbor is not a geographical term; it’s a moral term. You are my moral neighbor and I am yours,” Rabbi Jill Maderer told the gathering at her synagogue Congregation Rodeph Shalom.
“Deaths from gun suicide are rising in rural areas and among young Black men. We must do everything that we can to keep firearms out of the hands of youth” Jenny Anne Horst-Martz said as she shared the story of her son Hans who ended his life with a firearm.
“Extreme Risk Protection Orders, aka Red Flag Laws, have bipartisan support in Harrisburg and the data shows they will save lives. We have a moral obligation to do whatever we can to prevent death by gun suicide and to remove firearms from the hands of people in active crisis and ERPOs will allow us to do just that,” said Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D – Delaware) who introduced the bill and chairs the Southeast PA Delegation.
“As Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I have repeatedly requested robust bipartisan debate on gun violence reduction legislation and called for an up or down vote on real solutions with my republican counterpart Representative Kauffman, however, he has zero desire to engage on the issue and in fact has made public statements that as long as he is chairman no gun bills will be considered,” said House Democratic Judiciary Chair Rep. Tim Briggs.
“In order to end the senseless gun violence that plagues the Black and Brown communities, we must rebuild our foundations within our own families first. To be able to fix the trenches, you must be among the people in the trenches,” said Sister Taleah Taylor of the City of Dreams Coalition.
“”How many more lives must be lost before these elected officials do what is necessary! The second Amendment doesn’t mean that our children and loved ones should not be safe from those with guns and assault weapons on our streets across this nation. Please know No one is safe UNTIL we are all safe!,” said Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight of Mothers in Charge Inc., which she founded after her son Khaaliq was murdered.
“As faith leaders, our obligation is not just to bring healing and peace, but to show we are meant to be one body; if one part suffers the whole body suffers. We must not turn our backs on those suffering from gun violence or see it as not our problem,” said Rev. Canon Toneh Smyth of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
As the Commonwealth’s leading gun violence prevention organization, CeaseFirePA Education Fund organizes communities closest to the issue, holds those in power accountable, and maximizes the strengths of every member in its broad coalition.