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The Pa. House passed two gun reform bills. A third failed on the House floor.

The House voted to approve a "red flag" gun bill and another to close the so-called gun show loophole. A third bill failed, highlighting the limitations of Democrats' fragile one-seat majority.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg.Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House approved two gun reform bills Monday, while a third measure failed on the House floor — highlighting the fragile nature of Democratsone-seat majority.

Democrats had hoped to pass a four-bill package of what they called “commonsense” gun reforms. But one was voted down, and House leadership didn’t bring the fourth up for a vote Monday.

The passage of two reform measures represented a victory for gun control advocates, who have spent years pushing legislative action and were hopeful for change when Democrats took control of the House this year. Still, Democratic leaders’ inability to muster enough votes for the full package of legislation showed that their narrow majority may not be sufficient to accomplish their legislative agenda. And it’s unlikely that the bills approved Monday will pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

House Democrats and a handful of Republicans approved two gun reforms that would:

  1. Allow law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from someone deemed by a judge to be an immediate threat to themselves or others, otherwise known as a “red-flag” bill. It passed 101-99, with two Bucks County Republicans joining Democrats to advance the bill.

  2. Close the so-called gun show loophole by expanding background checks to include private purchases of long-guns. It passed 109-92, with several Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

A third bill — and most notable to Philadelphia, where illegally obtained guns are often involved in shootings — failed on the House floor, by a 100-101 vote. The bill would have required firearm owners to report their guns as lost or stolen to law enforcement within three days. Rep. Frank Burns (D., Cambria), one of few elected House members from a rural county, voted with Republicans to defeat the bill. He votes with Republicans more than any other House Democrat on partisan bills, an Inquirer analysis found earlier this year.

The fourth bill that did not get a vote Monday would have required trigger locks to be purchased with some gun purchases.

In a three-hour debate on the House floor, House Republicans largely rejected the gun bills as violating the U.S. Constitution. They argued that the proposals strip a person of their 2nd Amendment or due process rights.

But Democrats, especially those from Philadelphia, said the bills were necessary tools to help protect communities with high rates of gun violence.

“My police in the city of [Philadelphia], they want all of these pieces of legislation to help them actually fight crime,” said Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia).

Bleak future in Senate

The two gun reform bills that passed Monday have a bleak future in the state Senate, which has historically declined to consider any gun control bills.

Sen. Lisa Baker (R., Luzerne), who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, said in a statement she would analyze each of the bills. They must be approved by her committee before advancing to a vote in the full Senate.

Baker rejected the notion that the bills were dead-on-arrival in her committee, adding, “I have frequently said what I am looking for in potentially considering any gun-related bills: bipartisan involvement and support, full enforceability, and ensuring due process in accordance with constitutional protections.”

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) said in a statement that “advancing measures to increase safety and security is of chief importance” to Senate Republicans.

“We remain steadfast in our ongoing support of law enforcement, leadership of school safety initiatives, and examination of ways to provide greater mental and behavioral health support to help protect our communities,” Pittman added. “Pennsylvania currently has robust laws in place pertaining to guns, which must be enforced in every corner of our commonwealth.”