PITTSBURGH – Calling it the “Protection for Pennsylvanians” legislation, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) has announced that he will introduce two bills aimed at preventing gun violence and mass shootings.
“These commonsense proposals would help prevent the kind of indiscriminate mass murder that occurred in Florida last week,” Fontana said. “Inaction is no longer an option.”
The Fontana bills would:
- ban the sale and use of 150 different models of military grade semi-automatic assault weapons — as well as gun magazines that have a capacity of more than 10 rounds; and
- empower family members to petition a court to temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if they can prove that the person is threatening harm to themselves or others.
“As former co-chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, I often spoke with hunters, sportsmen and gun enthusiasts,” Fontana said.
“Very few believed that assault weapons had any practical or rational use. Most sportsmen and women also had no problem with reasonable efforts to keep firearms away from convicted criminals and the mentally ill.”
Fontana said it’s time for people on both sides of the gun issue to “seek common ground and workable solutions that protect second amendment rights while preventing the epidemic of mass shootings that have become endemic to America.”
The Brookline lawmaker’s assault weapon ban bill would mirror a law enacted in Connecticut after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
In the case of last week’s Lakeland, Fla., tragedy, the teen suspect used an AR-15 semi-automatic style weapon during the massacre. This military-inspired rifle has been the weapon of choice by several mass shooters including at Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and Santa Monica and San Bernardino, Calif.
“These military-grade weapons have no legitimate place in civilian life,” Fontana said. “With poor accuracy, they have no useful purpose for hunting or self-defense. These rapid-fire weapons are specifically designed to spray bullets and kill many people quickly.”
Fontana added that family members and police officers are frustrated by how difficult it is to get firearms away from individuals in crisis. He said his bill would enable family members to ask a court to implement an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) in cases where an individual has threatened harm to themselves or others.
Modeled after domestic and sexual assault protection orders, a court could require an individual to surrender their firearms to the police during the suspension period — which could last for up to one year. The individual would have the right to request a hearing to have the ERPO order rescinded.
“By enacting this ERPO process, our state would empower loved ones, who are closest to someone who is exhibiting dangerous behaviors, to temporarily take away their access to guns,” Fontana said.
“Around 42 percent of mass shooters exhibit warning signs or concerning behaviors before they commit a crime. ERPOs would help families and police officers prevent a possible tragedy before it happens.”
Fontana said being a member of the state Senate’s minority party has frustrated efforts to rally support for bills that prevent gun violence.
“My fellow Americans and I are tired of feeling helpless,” Fontana said. “We are fed up with these relentless and horrific accounts of innocent people being slaughtered. I cannot and will not remain silent any longer.”
Fontana said, “It would be best if these gun issues were addressed by the U.S. Congress so that uniform measures could be implemented nationwide. However, until that happens, it’s on us in Pennsylvania to work to ensure the safety of those in our state.”