Three school shootings in three weeks.
First, a Colorado gunman broke into a high school, took over an English class, and held six teenage girls hostage. After sexually assaulting the girls, the gunman used one of the girl’s bodies as a shield against the police, killed her, and was consequently shot to death.
In Wisconsin, a ninth-grade student shot and killed his principal. And, in Lancaster, Pa., a man from a surrounding community walked into an Amish school armed with three guns. After shooting and killing five girls, the gunman then took his own life.
The news dominated headlines this week, and these events left society asking ‘What can be done?’ The day after the Lancaster incident occurred, the state House in Harrisburg, Pa., had a chance to make a change, at least in Pennsylvania.
But instead of that, the House overwhelmingly defeated a round of proposals for more restrictive gun-control laws. The proposals centered around limiting handgun purchases to one a month, requiring the reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and a ban on assault weapons. These proposals were defeated by a 2-1 ratio.
Opponents of the gun-control regulations
argued that more forceful prosecution and stiffer sentences for people who abuse their gun privileges were more important than regulating all gun owners.
Rep. Douglas Reichley (R-Lehigh) told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “You can stack up laws to the ceiling of this room, and it still won’t stop the violence.”
Reichley is right. It’s true that the shootings in Lancaster wouldn’t have been avoided by any of the gun law changes that were put up to vote by the House. But in Philadelphia, where shootings have become so commonplace that they rarely make the evening news, these types of laws could make a vast difference in the number of deaths in the city. But ours isn’t the only city to consider.
Pennsylvania is an eclectic state, to say the least. As political commentator James Carville once said, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in between.”
Many of the representatives who voted to defeat these gun-control proposals came from rural areas of the state where hunting is an important part of life, and stated that this was a reason for their vote. In a state such as Pennsylvania, lawmakers have to keep in mind what’s best for the whole, not just one side of the state or the other.
Rep. John Myers (D-Phila.), who sponsored
the one-handgun proposal, said that the proposition was not meant to limit the number of rifles or shotguns bought by hunters.
“The only thing being hunted in my community is people,” Myers said. And when a statement like that rings true for any part of the state, something needs to be done.