Governor Wolf Calls for Federal, State Action Following Escalating Gun Violence

HARRISBURG, Pa. – In the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Governor Wolf is seeking action from state and federal levels to end gun violence.

Governor Tom Wolf called on Senator Mitch McConnell to reconvene the United States Senate immediately to consider pending gun safety legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Further, Governor Wolf said both the Pennsylvania State House and Senate should advance commonsense reforms that would reduce access to guns for violent and dangerous individuals.

Governor Wolf’s full statement, Monday, August 5:

“The Tree of Life shooting made clear the imminent danger of hatred mixed with powerful guns,” Governor Wolf said. “We saw the carnage up close, and we know there is more that we can do. Unfortunately, as a country and a commonwealth, we have failed to address these dangers, or adequately respond to gun violence that plagues communities, large and small, on a day-to-day basis. There is no single solution, but there are certainly commonsense steps we can take, on a myriad of problems, to reduce the likelihood and propensity of gun violence.

“The biggest and most immediate step that we could take as a nation is for the United States Senate to reconvene and pass House Resolution 8, a sweeping gun safety bill, approved by the U.S. House in February. Further, it is my belief that Congress should immediately pursue a ban or significant restrictions on assault rifles and ammunition accessories – those weapons of choice of mass shooters. I call on Majority Leader McConnell to immediately end the Senate’s recess and bring this bill to a vote. This is a nationwide crisis and it demands a national solution.

“Further, the commonwealth must also do more. I urge the House and Senate to address this issue. In Pennsylvania, as long as it is a private sale, any person can still buy an assault rifle to commit a mass shooting without a background check. We still don’t have a ‘red flag’ law that could get these weapons away from someone who was known to be dangerous. These are just two of many bills that exist right now to reduce violence. All of these bills have been stalled for too long.

“Over the past few months, my administration has been consulting partners and members of the general assembly on what more the executive branch can be doing to reduce gun violence and keep weapons from dangerous individuals. We want to ensure we are using the full weight of the executive branch to combat this problem.

“This is just the start. We should be passing measures to reduce violence by combatting poverty and increasing opportunity for struggling communities. We should strengthen our hate crimes law and better target domestic terrorism and white nationalism. We should certainly invest in our mental health systems and combat the stigma and any barriers to seeking treatment.

“But we cannot limit our action to any one of these problems, either. This crisis demands swift but comprehensive reforms. We know what we are doing now is not enough. The status quo is costing people their lives and robbing many Americans of their peace of mind and freedom to live their daily lives without fear. We cannot accept this violence and fear as normal. We must take action.”

President Trump on the Mass Shootings in Texas and Ohio

Donald Trump

On Monday morning (August 5), President Trump emphasized that “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”

He thanked the many law enforcement personnel who responded to the shootings for their courage.

He explained his plan to make America safer as follows:

– Working with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as social media companies, to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike;

– Stop the glorification of violence in our society;

– Reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence;

– Assure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms;

– Propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty; and

– Answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love.

President Trump’s full remarks, Monday, August 5:

“My fellow Americans, this morning, our nation is overcome with shock, horror, and sorrow. This weekend, more than 80 people were killed or wounded in two evil attacks.

“On Saturday morning, in El Paso, Texas, a wicked man went to a Walmart store, where families were shopping with their loved ones. He shot and murdered 20 people, and injured 26 others, including precious little children.

“Then, in the early hours of Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, another twisted monster opened fire on a crowded downtown street. He murdered 9 people, including his own sister, and injured 27 others.

“The First Lady and I join all Americans in praying and grieving for the victims, their families, and the survivors. We will stand by their side forever. We will never forget.

“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation, and a crime against all of humanity. We are outraged and sickened by this monstrous evil, the cruelty, the hatred, the malice, the bloodshed, and the terror. Our hearts are shattered for every family whose parents, children, husbands, and wives were ripped from their arms and their lives. America weeps for the fallen.

“We are a loving nation, and our children are entitled to grow up in a just, peaceful, and loving society. Together, we lock arms to shoulder the grief, we ask God in Heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer, and we vow to act with urgent resolve.

“I want to thank the many law enforcement personnel who responded to these atrocities with the extraordinary grace and courage of American heroes.

“I have spoken with Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, as well as Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas, and Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, to express our profound sadness and unfailing support.

“Today, we also send the condolences of our nation to President Obrador of Mexico, and all the people of Mexico, for the loss of their citizens in the El Paso shooting. Terrible, terrible thing.

“I have also been in close contact with Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray. Federal authorities are on the ground, and I have directed them to provide any and all assistance required — whatever is needed.

“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul. We have asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism — whatever they need.

“We must recognize that the Internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the Internet, and stop mass murders before they start. The Internet, likewise, is used for human trafficking, illegal drug distribution, and so many other heinous crimes. The perils of the Internet and social media cannot be ignored, and they will not be ignored.

“In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another — over and over again, decade after decade.

“We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion. In that task, we must honor the sacred memory of those we have lost by acting as one people. Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real, bipartisan solutions. We have to do that in a bipartisan manner. That will truly make America safer and better for all.

“First, we must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs. I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partisan — partnership with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as social media companies, to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.

“As an example, the monster in the Parkland high school in Florida had many red flags against him, and yet nobody took decisive action. Nobody did anything. Why not?

“Second, we must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately. Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. That’s what we have to do.

“Third, we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but, when necessary, involuntary confinement. Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.

“Fourth, we must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that, if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.

“Today, I am also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.

“These are just a few of the areas of cooperation that we can pursue. I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference.

“Republicans and Democrats have proven that we can join together in a bipartisan fashion to address this plague. Last year, we enacted the STOP School Violence and Fix NICS Acts into law, providing grants to improve school safety and strengthening critical background checks for firearm purchases. At my direction, the Department of Justice banned bump stocks. Last year, we prosecuted a record number of firearms offenses. But there is so much more that we have to do.

“Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love. Our future is in our control. America will rise to the challenge. We will always have and we always will win. The choice is ours and ours alone. It is not up to mentally ill monsters; it is up to us.

“If we are able to pass great legislation after all of these years, we will ensure that those who were attacked will not have died in vain.”

Governor Wolf, Senator Casey Honor Victims, Call for Action on Federal and State Gun Legislation

Governor Wolf - Gun Legislation

Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey were joined by legislators, representatives of CeaseFire PA, Moms Demand Action, religious leaders, and members of the public on Wednesday night (August 7) to remember the lives lost to gun violence in Pennsylvania and around the nation, and to reiterate their urgent call to federal and state lawmakers for action on legislation for universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

“Today (August 7) is a solemn one as across America, families are burying their loved ones,” Governor Wolf said. “For those families, parents, children, siblings or spouses will not come home. And, there is no undoing what has been done. We must tackle the use of gun violence. We must take guns out of the hands of people who will use them to kill.

“We must prevent people who want to kill from buying guns that are manufactured to allow them to kill at a more rapid pace. We must do everything we can to ensure people are not planning to kill before we sell them guns, and we must restrict access to the weapons that are primarily used – time after time – for mass murder.”

Governor Tom Wolf holds hands with First Lady Frances Wolf after discussing his plan to reduce gun violence at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Governor Tom Wolf holds hands with First Lady Frances Wolf after discussing his plan to reduce gun violence at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Governor Wolf has consistently urged lawmakers in Pennsylvania and D.C. to pass Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation, and the state’s General Assembly to mandate universal background checks through the Pennsylvania State Police on all firearm purchases.

He also called on our partners in the United States Senate to pass House Resolution 8 and close background check loopholes at the federal level.

“These are three concrete, verifiable actions that legislators can take today (August 7) to reduce the number of graves being dug for gun violence victims,” Governor Wolf said.

“Far too often we come together to mourn the victims of gun violence and mass shootings in our communities, but enough is enough,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “We don’t have to live like this. Gun violence is a uniquely American problem, and the first step to reducing gun violence is to pass universal background checks, limit the size of magazines and ban military-style assault weapons—among other measures. We must also confront white nationalist ideology and rhetoric that has inspired some of the domestic terrorist attacks that have happened in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. It’s time we hold accountable politicians who refuse to take action to reduce gun violence.”

Senator Bob Casey speaks to members of the public to remember the lives lost by gun violence and to urge federal and state lawmakers for action at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Senator Bob Casey speaks to members of the public to remember the lives lost by gun violence and to urge federal and state lawmakers for action at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

“Thank you, Governor Wolf, for urging action at the state and federal level to address this uniquely American problem of gun violence,” said Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA. “There are many policy solutions that would make Pennsylvania safer, and we are pleased that this bipartisan effort to bring Extreme Risk Protection Orders to PA is being highlighted. We need Pennsylvania lawmakers to come together again to take strong, decisive action that will save lives. Pennsylvania voters are watching closely, and they are expecting swift action by the legislature.”

“Gun violence is a multi-layered issue; whether the swift, disorienting blow of a mass shooting or the simmering, persistent public health crisis affecting cities all across this country,” said Julia Mallory, gun violence survivor.

“Communities that wake up and never anticipate this magnitude of tragedy are not immune from tragedy. Now is the time for us to wake up and act. It will never be convenient or easy – as we know progress rarely is.”

Julia Mallory, a gun violence survivor, speaks of the importance of legislative action at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Julia Mallory, a gun violence survivor, speaks of the importance of legislative action at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Sens. Anthony Williams and Tom Killion, and Rep. Todd Stephens joined the governor in support of swift passage of legislation.

“For too long, the violence in our neighborhoods and cities has been growing,” Sen. Williams said. “In Philadelphia, mass shootings which are ignored by the media or belittled as ‘everyday crime’ have become a constant threat to residents gathering at family barbecues, basketball tournaments, or church services. One-hundred ninety-three souls have been lost to homicide in the commonwealth’s largest city, with hundreds more injured, because we refuse to directly address the root causes of violence. I hope that the General Assembly can return to session soon to immediately begin working on combating these issues directly.”

“America’s gun violence epidemic claims 100 lives a day,” said Sen. Killion. “Enough is enough. I proudly stand with Governor Wolf and lawmakers from both political parties who are fighting to enact commonsense legislation, such as a red flag law here in Pennsylvania. We need to end gun violence and save lives now.”

“Whether we’re talking about suicides in rural PA, mass shootings at our places of worship or on the streets of our cities, the loss of one innocent life to gun violence is a tragedy we must work to stop it,” Rep. Stephens said. “Doing nothing is NOT an option. Pennsylvania is a diverse state but if President Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsay Graham, and Chuck Schumer can all agree Extreme Risk Protection Orders are an important tool against gun violence, we can, too. We must enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Pennsylvania.”

“I’m not under the impression that legislation is the magic pill that will cure the national health crisis that we face regarding illegal gun violence,” Rep. Harris said. “I do, however, believe that it is our moral duty to do what is in our power to preserve the lives and safety of our constituents using the tools that we have. For this reason, I urge that this body put our people first and return to session to address this plague.”

Marybeth Christiansen, Chapter Lead of Pennsylvania Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, speaks about protecting her students from potential attacks at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Marybeth Christiansen, Chapter Lead of Pennsylvania Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, speaks about protecting her students from potential attacks at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

“In the wake of the senseless shootings in El Paso and Dayton and in recognition of the 100 Americans who die each day from preventable gun violence, the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America expects the General Assembly to show bipartisan leadership and immediately pass the pending state Background Checks and ERPO/Red Flag bills,” said Marybeth Christiansen, Chapter Lead of Pennsylvania Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

“We know that we can reduce gun violence while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners. Our legislators know this as well. We expect our General Assembly to protect the rights of all Pennsylvanians. We deserve no less from those who represent us.”

“The measures we talked about today (August 7) are not the only ones I would support, but they represent a start,” Governor Wolf said. “I will continue to work with the General Assembly to advance legislation to reduce community gun violence, including combating lost and stolen guns and straw purchases.

“No one should have to live this way. We must do better; we can do better. It’s time to take back our communities. It’s time to take back our Commonwealth.

“It’s time to take back our values.”

Leanna and Tessa Goodrich of Montgomery County showed support for federal and state gun legislation at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.

Leanna and Tessa Goodrich of Montgomery County showed support for federal and state gun legislation at the Harrisburg Capitol on August 7, 2019.


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