State House GOP moves to bottle up 4 gun safety proposals

PA House Republicans are using a deliberate hybrid strategy to stop four bills dealing with committee-controlled gun violence

PENNSYLVANIA, U.S. — Republicans used a bill-making strategy on Monday to voluntarily relinquish control of a Pennsylvania House committee over four bills dealing with gun violence.

The Judiciary Committee’s action prompted the speaker to let another body take over the bills after Democrats tried to force consideration of the proposals.

The vote, after an irritated exchange of words between the two parties during a judiciary committee meeting, concerned proposals for safe keeping of guns, a ban on assault weapons, a red flag law and a measure to give local governments the power to protect themselves enacted

All Republicans and about half of Democrats voted to return the bill to Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, with a recommendation that he refer it to the local government committee. A subsequent vote in the House of Representatives on Cutler’s “re-referral” almost broke down partisanly, with only Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, voting with the other party.

Democrats who voted with the GOP said they did so in the hope that the proposals could somehow move forward in the local government committee and believed there was no hope of action on the bills in the judiciary.

“This effort has the support of 80%, 90% of our citizens,” said the committee’s senior Democrat, Montgomery County Assemblyman Tim Briggs. “And we will sting.”

Briggs told Republicans that if another mass shooting occurs without lawmaker intervention, “blood will be on your hands.” The chairman, Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, responded that “the blood is on the hands of the criminals” who use the guns to hurt people.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the parliamentary maneuver “shameful.”

“Rather than voting to move these bills forward, they are just delaying the debate on this legislation,” Wolf said in a statement. “Gun violence will not delay. Every day Republicans falter, more people are at risk.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats forced a procedural vote to try to get the red-flag legislation into the Senate and out of committee, where Republicans have bottled it.

“If we prevent a murder with this legislation, isn’t it worth it? I think so,” said Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny. Republicans voted in a party-line vote after accusing Fontana of violating chamber rules by discussing details of the bill during his speaking engagements to secure a procedural vote.

Also on Monday, three members of the Republican House of Representatives announced that they are seeking support for a proposal to impeach Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner in Philadelphia. They argue that Krasner, who was easily re-elected last year, has not done enough to enforce criminal laws.

Krasner issued a statement linking the impeachment effort to the violent January 6, 2021 US Capitol siege as “continued and increasing desperate attempts by Republicans to overthrow elections they cannot win.”

“Democracy- and freedom-loving Pennsylvanians are not fooled by these anti-democratic efforts to devalue Philadelphia’s diverse voices,” Krasner said. “Philadelphia is not Pennsylvania’s colony. Our votes count in full, not as a 3/5 vote.”

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