Hundreds of Gun Safety Advocates Rally at PA Capitol as House Prepares Votes On Two More Life-Saving Bills Today


HARRISBURG, PA — Today, CeaseFirePA Action held a major rally and advocacy day at the PA State Capitol where over 500 Pennsylvanians and a broad statewide coalition of over 60 organizations demanded action on a suite of gun safety bills that would address the Commonwealth’s gun violence epidemic, which injures or kills roughly 4,600 Pennsylvanians every year in all 67 counties. 

Advocates and legislative champions in the PA House of Representatives emphasized two life-saving pieces of legislation: House Bill 2206 to prevent gun trafficking and House Bill 335 to ban deadly machine gun conversion devices. Both bills are scheduled to receive House floor debates and final votes this afternoon. Rallygoers also renewed calls on the PA Senate to stop ignoring three broadly popular bills that passed the PA House with bipartisan support earlier this legislative session, including: House Bill 777 to treat ghost guns as real guns, House Bill 714 to enact universal background checks, and House Bill 1018 to allow for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

“The gun violence prevention movement today showed its true power, with over 500 Pennsylvanians from close to 3/4ths of all state legislative districts descending on the Capitol building to say with one united voice: The PA House is doing their job by pushing for gun safety policies so we don’t have to live this way anymore. Now, the decision to save lives sits with the PA Senate,” said Adam Garber, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA Action. “Whether it’s a parent mourning the loss of their child to a preventable shooting, a faith leader calling for sacred life to be protected, a healthcare professional who has lost too many patients, a local official doing the best they can to keep their community safe amid state-level inaction, or a young person yearning aloud for a safer future – today we heard the true voice of Pennsylvania. Will lawmakers listen?”

Elected officials who champion safer communities lauded the historically-productive PA House session – never in recent memory have three bipartisan gun safety bills passed the House – while also underscoring that the job isn’t close to done.

“Illegal gun trafficking is ravaging communities like mine in Philadelphia, and law enforcement needs better data from gun dealers to stop it,” said State Representative Anthony Bellmon, who leads House Bill 2206. “My legislation would expand an existing program to better support police’s efforts to interrupt straw purchasing and keep illegal guns out of the wrong hands, rather than simply recovering them after a shooting has destroyed a life.”

“It’s very simple: illegal home-made machine guns have no place in our communities,” said State Representative Ben Sanchez who introduced House Bill 335. “It’s time to ban glock switches, bump stocks, and other machine gun conversion devices and get them off our streets in PA.”

“The issue of gun violence is what first brought me to public service, and our Administration is working hard and taking a comprehensive approach to make Pennsylvania communities safer,” said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. “As Lieutenant Governor, I am urging my colleagues in the state Senate to pass these bills and send them to the Governor’s desk. Pennsylvanians are counting on us to get this done.”

The diversity of the gun violence prevention movement – itself a reflection of the broad impact of this crisis on every facet of our society – was reflected in the range of speakers at a noon rally on the Capitol’s front steps.

Interfaith leaders made the moral case for prevention policies amid a plague of gun violence. 

“I have a mandate, a Gospel imperative to do everything I can to assist those suffering in my community in my state, in my country. In Christian hope, I humbly beg my and all elected officials, anyone with the power to help to reduce gun violence – to do so. As believers, nothing less is demanded of us,” said Sr. Sarah Crotty of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA.

“We are told in Deuteronomy 30:19: ‘I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life!’ And Deuteronomy 28:8 tells us to put a railing around the roof of our house, lest an innocent person fall to their death. Legislators of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: I implore of you to choose the lives of innocent people in your districts. I implore of you to put a fence around the real and present danger in our midst,” said Cantor Kalix Jacobson of Temple Emanuel of the South Hills.

Survivors of gun violence shared stories of their loved ones lost to this crisis, in the hopes that their pain may move lawmakers to action that will spare others their grief.

“Our son, 21 year old Dakota Ryan Elliott, died because of an unsecured handgun 8 months ago,” said Karen Yust, standing side by side with her husband and Dakota’s father, David Elliott, while displaying a photo of Dakota. “Our son was in a momentary crisis, mostly over a girl. He frantically ran to grab his grandfather’s loaded, unlocked revolver, and he shot himself. Had the gun been locked, he would have had time to calm down and Dakota would still be here. We don’t need any more victims of irresponsible gun owners. What we need is a law in PA that requires that if you own a firearm, then you have to safely secure it when it is not in use.”

Maxayn Gooden, mother of Jah’Sun Ahmad Patton, who was fatally shot in Harrisburg in 2017 by a person that was on parole and should never have had access to a gun, said “I can’t help but wonder that my son would still be here if gun laws were stricter.” She pleaded that “We have to do better, because if not, the bloodshed is on our hands. Innocent lives will continue to cry out from their graves, families will continue to be in grief, and communities will remain traumatized with no hope. We all have the power to change what’s happening, if only we would use it.”

A law enforcement leader asked for the General Assembly to help public safety personnel do their jobs. 

“I’ve been wearing this badge for a long time, but never did I imagine being up against things like ghost guns, 3D printable weapons, high capacity magazines, military-style rifles, and ‘glock switches’ that can easily turn a handgun into a weapon of mass destruction,” said York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow. “All we ask is our leaders and legislators to listen, and do all you can to help us in this fight”

Healthcare providers bemoaned how despite their constant, tireless efforts to save lives, our weak gun safety system keeps delivering an onslaught of patient and patient with gunshot wounds. 

“We offer the best in medical care, but it’s not always enough to heal the wounds of gun violence. We need to stop these injuries before they start, and that starts with our laws,” said Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a Trauma Surgeon at Penn Medicine and a member of CeaseFirePA’s board. “We can keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them. We can keep the most dangerous weapons out of Pennsylvania entirely.”

“Just imagine staring at the young unnamed person before you, now lifeless and you hear something – their phone starts to ring. You answer the phone and it’s the small voice of a confused young child looking for their mother who never came home,” said Kristen Chreiman, a Trauma Nurse of 29 years and a Trauma Program Manager at one of Pennsylvania’s busiest Level 1 Trauma Centers. “The definition of insanity is when you keep doing the same thing over and over again but expect different results. Lawmakers: the power is in your hands. End the insanity. Something must change and the time for that change is now. End gun violence.”

Youth activists simultaneously saddened and lifted the spirits of the crowd, showing that even amid what feels like a violent and bleak future for young people – allowed to happen by the adults in charge – they feel a sense of duty to be the generation of change. 

“At a time when I was supposed to be planning for prom, getting ready to graduate, and preparing myself for college, I had to spend the year fearing for my life and fighting to change the system that allows gun violence to permeate every facet of my community,” said Cayla Waddington, a High School senior at Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School in Philadelphia, and a Youth Advisory CeaseFirePA Board member. Youth across Pennsylvania are showing our elected officials that we want change, and we want it now! This epidemic stops with us.”

The full rally and remarks from all speakers can be streamed on CeaseFirePA’s Facebook Page

OTHER QUOTES:“As an 8th grade student, about to start High School, I am deeply concerned about the increasing gun violence in our communities. Every day, we hear about shootings and lives lost. It’s terrifying, and it’s unacceptable. We cannot sit back and wait for more tragedies to happen. We need our legislators to take urgent action to address this crisis. We need stronger gun laws to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. Our safety should be their top priority, as we are the future of our society,” said Sarah Taveras and Jordyn Rivera, students from Hostos Elementary School in Philadelphia, sharing mirrored remarks in both English and Spanish.

“Why do the ways and weapons of violence deserve more protection than the victims?  How much more time and how many more chances do we need to give the ways of violence in order to see that they aren’t delivering on their empty promises of keeping us safe or free?  How many more people need to be sacrificed at on this altar before we see the false god for what it is?  How long are we going to make excuses for why the ways of peace can’t even be tried?” said Rev. Matthew Best, Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church of Harrisburg. 

“Gun violence and intimate partner violence are inextricably linked,” said Nicole Molinaro, President/CEO of the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. “We talk to women every day who have been threatened with guns. It’s become a fairly common tactic used by those who batter to keep their partner in the cycle of abuse. Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) would add an important new tool for survivors or family members, especially considering how many suicides start with intimate partner violence-related homicides. Up to 80% of those considering suicide exhibit warning signs – in many cases flat-out threatening their partner that they will kill them before they kill themselves.”

“I am so proud to be fighting for safe communities free from gun violence alongside my colleagues in the PA Senate Democratic Caucus,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. “We believe in delivering safe communities for every Pennsylvanian, and to do that, the Senate must take up the bills passed by the House to keep firearms out of the hands of bad actors. These bills are not only popular, but necessary, and I look forward to keeping up the pressure to get these gun safety bills over the finish line.”

“The House Judiciary committee has advanced more gun safety bills this session than I can ever recall in recent history. And we’ll keep going, sending more bills to the House floor and then hopefully on to the Senate. Lives depend on it,” said House Judiciary Committee Chair Tim Briggs.

“For far too long, Pennsylvania has remained singularly focused on what we do after crimes are committed with guns, rather than the unfettered access to these deadly weapons. That’s why I’m proud to have authored legislation, House Bill 777, to treat ghost guns like the real, deadly guns that they are,” said State Representative Morgan Cephas. “I am even prouder that this bill has already passed the PA House with bipartisan support. Now it’s on Senate leadership to work with us to make Pennsylvanians safe from gun violence by passing this legislation, and other bi-partisan gun safety bills, languishing in the Senate. The time to put them up for a vote has come!”

“Gun violence continues to intensify in cities like Scranton, and the PA State Senate remains a roadblock to keeping our communities safe. Ending preemption would enable local governments to protect employees, residents, and children,” said Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti. “We are calling on the State Senate to act now to allow us to help save lives.


  1. Action Together NEPA
  2. American Federation of Teachers- PA
  3. Amnesty International Group 39
  4. Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia
  5. Association of Pittsburgh Priests
  6. Beth Am Israel
  7. Beth David Reform Congregation
  8. Bethel AME Church of Ardmore
  9. Black Political Empowerment Project
  10. Brady: United Against Gun Violence
  11. Center of Life
  12. Centre County Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety
  13. Chester Community Coalition
  14. Chester County Marching Forward Social Justice SIG
  15. Citizens for Gun Safety
  16. Clergy Council of Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence
  17. Coalition for Safe Community Spaces
  18. Community and Family Builders
  19. Congregation Kol Ami
  20. Cumberland Valley Rising
  21. Episcopal Community Services
  22. Episcopal Diocese of Central PA
  23. Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
  24. Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
  25. First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
  27. Generations
  28. Gettysburg for Gun Sense
  29. Giffords
  30. Giffords Gun Owners for Safety, Pennsylvania Chapter
  31. Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence
  32. The Hear Foundation
  33. Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence
  34. Infinite Lifestyle Solutions, Inc.
  35. Keystone Progress Education Fund
  36. League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
  37. LWV Berks County PA
  38. Main Line Reform Temple
  39. Moms Bonded by Grief
  40. MomsRising
  41. Mothers of Murdered Sons
  42. Operation Save Our City
  43. Or Hadash
  44. Peace with Justice Commission of The Susquehanna Conference United Methodist Church
  45. Penn Hills School District (Penn Hills High School)
  46. Pennsylvania Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  47. Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
  48. Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
  49. RAWtools Philadelphia
  50. Sisters of Divine Providence
  51. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
  52. Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill Philadelphia
  53. Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
  54. Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden
  55. Souls Shot Portrait Project
  56. South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace
  57. Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence
  58. St. Paul’s Working for Justice Ministry
  59. Students Against the Gun Violence Epidemic (Sidney Kimmel Medical College)
  60. Unitarian Universalist Justice PA
  61. Wilkinsburg Sanctuary Project for Peace
  62. Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh




As the Commonwealth’s leading gun violence prevention organization, CeaseFirePA Action organizes communities closest to the issue, holds those in power accountable, and maximizes the strengths of every member in its broad coalition.

Facing the truth about gun violence in PA