Gun violence takes the lives of nearly 1,600 Pennsylvanians every year. And because gun violence takes so many forms, we need different solutions to address them.
CeaseFirePA is leading a new coalition of nearly 100 faith, community-based, veteran, public health, youth, and survivor organizations to support a Common Agenda to End Gun Violence. The coalition currently is focused on three policy priorities, addressing common sources of gun violence and proposing common-sense, effective solutions: Extreme Risk Protection Orders, reporting of lost or stolen firearms and universal background checks.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs)
Nearly 60% of gun deaths are suicides — approximately 900 per year in PA. Under current law, the only way in which family members can legally remove guns from those in crisis is through involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, and the individuals in question cannot retrieve their guns without a lengthy expungement process.
80% of Pennsylvanians support the concept of Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) would reduce firearms suicides, mass shootings, domestic violence, and even community violence/homicides.
With an ERPO, family members can petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a loved one in crisis without stigmatizing them with an involuntary mental-health commitment. ERPOs remove firearms for up to one year and prevent the individual from buying new guns after evidence of crisis behaviors linked to violence is convincingly presented to a judge. After the expiration of the order, guns must be returned to their owner as soon as possible.
Connecticut and Indiana studies show a significant decrease in suicides of 12%-18% after ERPO laws were enacted. None of the subjects showing clear signs that they were about to become mass shooters in California committed a mass shooting after an Extreme Risk Protection Order was issued.
Lost or Stolen Gun Reporting
So many of our communities, including those most vulnerable to gun violence, are flooded with stolen guns and the violence that they bring. Yet under PA law, gun owners are not required to report the loss or theft of a firearm to law enforcement.
A recent study found nearly one-third of guns recovered at Pittsburgh crime scenes were said to have been stolen. Additionally, a report by Attorney General Shapiro found that only 3% were reported lost or stolen, despite it being a common defense in court.
Lost or Stolen Gun Reporting would, by increasing responsible gun-owning behavior, keep illegal firearms out of the hands of people with violent intent.
By requiring gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within three days of discovering the firearm is gone, this policy would reduce community violence in our most beleaguered communities by giving police a much-needed tracking tool to identify repeat offenders as probable neighborhood traffickers.
Universal Background Checks
With nearly 1.5 million legal attempted firearm purchases in Pennsylvania in 2020, we need to ensure that people who should not have guns are kept from getting guns. And while firearm background checks rose to historic levels in 2020, denials climbed even faster, with more than 25,000 people denied a purchase.
Unfortunately, background checks aren’t currently required on all sales of firearms, including private sales of long guns like military-style rifles. This is a top-selling type of firearm that without background checks (and denials), these weapons could be slipping through the cracks into the hands of those who might commit violence with them.
Background checks are one reliable way to stop bad transactions at the source: the sale. Background checks on private sales of long guns could prevent violent felons and other dangerous individuals from purchasing military-style rifles, the weapon of choice for mass shootings, from a private/non-licensed seller.
Long guns can result in the most carnage when they are deployed. Parkland, Tree of Life, Las Vegas, Aurora, Newtown all involved semi-automatic “military-style” rifles.
88% of Pennsylvanians support stronger background checks. A background check at the point of sale is the only surefire way to tell a “good guy with a gun” from a “bad guy with a gun.”