By Larry Farnese
If you're venturing out to catch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you should know that many theaters are confiscating toy light sabers.
Which they are legally entitled to do.
What theaters can't do, despite multiple movie theater shootings, is confiscate guns.
Think about that. A movie theater can take away plastic light sabers because they pose a threat as "weapons," while an actual weapon can stay in a moviegoer's holster.
I'm not advocating that movie theaters confiscate guns. I am suggesting that our focus be on commonsense gun reform and not plastic paraphernalia.
Since the horrific shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., three years ago, there have been countless acts committed with a gun in hand. The innocent victims span across ages, genders, races, and religions - from schoolchildren to coworkers and even churchgoers.
It's not surprising to see "Gun Free Zone" signs and metal detectors at schools and movie theaters. But it's a shame that they are doing more to curb gun violence and encourage responsible gun ownership than our state government.
We need commonsense gun laws. If you want to carry a concealed firearm, show that you know how to use it safely.
More than half the states in this country require concealed-carry permit applicants to demonstrate that they have received training in firearms use and safety, but Pennsylvania doesn't. This is a serious oversight, which is why I have introduced legislation that would require a firearms safety or training course as a condition of being issued a concealed-carry permit.
We should also be very cautious about who can carry a firearm. Instead of tying the hands of local governments trying to protect their citizens, we should find solutions that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
We also need to ensure that there are serious consequences when gun laws are broken. Too many deaths on the streets of Philadelphia are a result of illegal firearms possession, which is why I have continuously advocated mandatory minimum sentences for illegal possession.
I have also advocated stiff penalties for straw purchasers who evade laws designed to keep people safe and to keep guns out of the hands of unqualified individuals.
As a green and wise Star Wars character said of morally questionable decisions, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny."
Our gun laws are dictating an increasingly dark destiny. But I believe the Force is with us to do better. As Yoda said, "Much to learn we still have."
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.) represents the First District. @larryfarnese