The House on Wednesday passed a package of gun restrictions that included raising the minimum age for buying semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, and lawmakers in the region were split in their vote.
The bill, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, passed by a vote of 223 to 204, following last month’s mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers , and in Buffalo, NY, which left 10 people dead. .
Locally, U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, D-17th District, voted in favor of the law, while Representative Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, voted no.
In a statement, Lamb said: ‘By passing this bill today, we are doing everything we can to prevent another Uvalde. These clear and simple rules will make it harder for criminals to obtain firearms and reduce the risk of children being shot while trying to learn.
The Protecting Our Children Act would ban high-capacity magazines and increase inventory for civilian use, require background checks for the purchase of ghost weapons, strengthen requirements for safe storage in homes where children may have access to firearms and strengthen penalties for arms trafficking.
“These rules will not take away a minute of legal hunting or sport shooting from anyone. The Senate must do its job and pass this law to protect our communities and our children from more senseless violence.
The rest of the Pennsylvania House members mirrored Congress’s split on guns, voting along party lines, with the exception of Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican who supported the legislation.
Reschenthaler said he voted against the bill because “the bill will make it more difficult to access a firearm in an emergency, criminalize a victim of domestic violence’s attempt to obtain help from a friend to get a gun for self-defense, and will ban many necessary firearms This bill would do nothing to make our schools and communities safer or prevent future tragedies from happening .
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to pass. A group of senators are negotiating a separate — and likely more limited — set of reforms that could include more funding for mental health resources, expanding background checks and pushing states to enact red flag laws.
In addition to Fitzpatrick, four other Republicans voted in favor of the bill – Chris Jacobs of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Two House Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine, voted against the package.
In a statement, Fitzpatrick said, “I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and all of the protections it entails. I also believe that we have no higher responsibility as leaders, no higher responsibility as human beings, than to protect our children and keep our community safe… These are not not and should not be mutually exclusive concepts.
The House action came hours after members of the Oversight and Reform Committee heard testimony from people who lost loved ones in the mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, and a fourth-grade student year that survived the Robb Elementary shooting.
House Republican leaders have described the measure as a “reactionary package” that violates citizens’ Second Amendment rights and hinders Americans’ ability to protect themselves.
Says Reschenthaler, “As a gun owner and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I will always fight attempts by the left to take away our right to protect ourselves and our families. Congress should work together to address the root causes of mass violence. Instead, Democrats are pushing a sweeping gun seizure agenda that would disenfranchise law-abiding citizens.
Reschenthaler instead advocates for tougher schools, supporting mental health care, expanding information sharing, and promoting gun safety and training.