The 21-year-old accused of killing seven people and injuring two dozen others during an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park allegedly used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 to fire 83 rounds from its rooftop perch. He emptied two 30-round magazines and most of a third.
He reportedly wanted to carry out a second mass shooting on July 4 in Wisconsin, this time using a Kel-Tec Sub-2000 and 60 rounds he had in his car.
The Smith & Wesson and the Kel-Tec are on PA State Senator Steve Santarsiero’s list of more than 150 firearms that would be banned. Senate Bill 1300which the Bucks County Democrat introduced in late June following the mass shooting that killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
Modeled after laws in Connecticut and California, it’s an ambitious bill, to say the least, in Pennsylvania, the state the Pew Research Center ranked fifth in number of weapons registered (in 2022) and what industrial trade group NSSF puts behind only Texas and Florida in total semi-automatic rifles purchased (in 2020).
Add to those obstacles a Republican-dominated General Assembly with a leadership that generally thwarts any effort to tighten gun laws.
What’s included in the PA Senate Assault Rifle Bill?
Santarsiero’s bill, which he calls an “assault weapons ban,” would make it illegal “to possess, manufacture, import, sell, or transfer an assault weapon or a large capacity magazine. Those who currently own such weapons would be allowed to keep them if they obtain a “certificate of possession” by providing certain information to the Pennsylvania State Police.
This would include the owner’s name, address, date of birth, race, gender, citizenship status, height, weight, signature, hair and eye color, photograph, and a description of the weapon that includes the name of the manufacturer, the name of the weapon, the model number, the serial number, and any unique markings or characteristics that might be used to identify it.
Anyone who does not obtain a certificate – or whose application is refused following subsequent criminal background, juvenile delinquency and mental health checks, as well as a “character and reputation” investigation – should submit all the weapons listed in the bill.
The list is made up of centerfire semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines and have a well-protruding pistol grip, thumbhole, folding or telescoping stock, flash suppressor, grenade launcher, or flare or a front pistol grip. The ban would also include semi-automatic rifles with an overall length of less than 30 inches or a fixed magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Semi-automatic pistols would be on the list if they can fire more than 10 rounds without reloading, accept detachable magazines, or have a threaded barrel, second grip, or other shroud to prevent hand burns which are more complex than a slide surrounding the barrel.
Not surprisingly, no Republican is co-sponsoring SB 1300, which would also establish a voluntary buy-back program for people who currently own the listed firearms.
A bipartisan group of US senators proved last month that a compromise is still possible on guns when they managed to strike a deal to expand the system of background checks on potential gun buyers under 21 by giving authorities up to 10 working days to review minors and mental health records. The measure also toughens laws against gun trafficking and the purchase of straw and closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that had exempted romantic partners from the ban on domestic abusers buying straws. fire arms. Previously, the law only applied to spouses, those who live together or have children together.
It’s by no means a home run for gun control advocates, but at least call it a field single that breaks a non-hitter. In light of this, it’s fair to wonder whether, instead of swinging for the fences with an “assault weapons ban” that has next to no hope of getting out of committee, Santarsiero should seek consensus with Republicans on more feasible firearms. measures.
While acknowledging the importance of compromise, Santarsiero rejects this suggestion.
“I’m always willing to talk to my colleagues across the aisle and the gun advocates about a compromise, but I can’t do that if they’re not willing to talk about any compromise. “, he said in an email.
He continued characterization aiming for, say, an assault weapons registry or certification process rather than negotiating against himself and, of course, this isn’t the Harrisburg veteran’s first round on firearms. fire.
After Cosmo DiNardo lured four young men to the family farm in Solebury and murdered them with a family member’s gun in July 2017, Santarsiero presented Senate Bill 137 at the start of the 2019-2020 legislative term. Gun owners would have had to store their guns safely if they were living with someone who is prohibited from owning them.
“Because the Commonwealth currently has no requirements for the safe storage of firearms, no member of his (DiNardo’s) family has been charged for allowing him access to the firearm used in the murders,” Santarsiero said at the time in a memo asking for support for the legislation.
He got none on the right side of the aisle, and the bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee without ever getting a vote. And, although Santarsiero reintroduced him at the start of the 2021-2022 session, he still hasn’t come out of the Judiciary Committee.
What gun control efforts are taking place in Pennsylvania?
In early 2021, Democratic state senators introduced bills calling for universal background checks, red flag laws, reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and a waiting period of 72 hours for all firearm transfers for review this session. All are mired in the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by State Senator Lisa Baker, R-20, whose district includes Pike, Wayne and Wyoming counties as well as parts of Luzerne and Susquehanna counties.
Following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Democratic senators pushed to remove all of these bills from the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, via a series of discharge resolutions, and have them voted on by the full chamber.
On June 13, all 28 Republican state senators opposed moving the Red Flag Laws bill out of the Judiciary Committee and to the prosecution. The next day, the state’s 28 Republican senators also voted to have the universal background check bill also locked up in the Judiciary Committee. Seeing the writing on the wall, Democrats did not call votes to repeal the other bills.
This also happens at the State House. On June 13 — the same day the Senate Red Flag Laws bill did not escape the Judiciary Committee — the House voted to kill an effort to suspend the rules to immediately consider a firearms ban. assault – Bill 770. The only Republican to oppose the GOP by voting to immediately review the ban was State Rep. Todd Stephens of Montgomery County’s 151st District.
At a press conference announcing his assault weapons ban last month, Santarsiero encouraged Pennsylvanians who want to see gun law reforms to lobby their Republican lawmakers to support a ban on assault weapons, saying “the power to make this happen belongs to the public”.
Because, absent a monumental push from residents, there will be no movement on even the most moderate gun proposals in Harrisburg, let alone something as ambitious as the Santarsiero Assault Weapons Ban.