In the six weeks since a lone gunman killed 11 people and wounded six others inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, there have been nearly three dozen mass shootings in the United States.
As with previous mass shootings, lawmakers in Harrisburg have mostly shrugged and continued to collect their outsized paychecks and guaranteed raises for largely part-time work. Given the lack of leadership in Harrisburg when it comes to reducing gun crimes and protecting innocent shooting victims, State Rep. Dan Frankel wisely wants to allow local lawmakers to pass their own gun laws.
Frankel, a Democrat who represents the section of Pittsburgh where the horrific synagogue shooting occurred, is seeking cosponsors for two bills that would remove the so-called “preemption” language from the state law, which prohibits cities from enacting gun laws.
Frankel’s bill faces a heavy lift in Harrisburg where Republicans control the House and Senate and the National Rifle Association wields undue influence over many lawmakers. But the recent success of congressional candidates – from Pennsylvania and conservative districts nationwide — who supported gun-control measures should cause some Harrisburg lawmakers to rethink their obstinance.
Yes, it makes more sense for gun laws to come from Washington and Harrisburg – especially since the majority of Americans support commonsense reforms. Indeed, a host of studies show stricter gun laws can make a difference. But until the political landscape changes, lawmakers in such cities as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be allowed to pass their own gun measures.
There is a good argument to be made that local officials are more responsive to the needs of their community. Given the urban and rural political divide on guns, it may make more sense to allow cities to pass different laws. There is also historical precedent dating to frontier times when places like Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona, regulated firearms.
Gun proponents often point to Chicago, where shootings have been rampant, as proof that strict regulation does not reduce killings. But Illinois borders Indiana and Wisconsin, two states with relatively weak gun laws.
The same holds true for New Jersey, where 77 percent of guns used in crimes in the first quarter of this year came from out of state. The majority of those guns came from Pennsylvania, where access to guns is more relaxed.
Pennsylvania is an undistinguished leader in other gun-related stats. More Pennsylvanians are killed each year by guns than in car accidents. The state’s gun homicides are among the highest in the nation, especially among minorities.
Many of the shootings and murders occur in Philadelphia, where the number of homicides this year is already the highest since 2012. Past attempts by the city to pass stricter gun laws have been blocked by the state. So, until Washington and Harrisburg get serious about gun control, Rep. Frankel’s effort to allow cities and towns to pass their own gun laws makes good sense.