Marsico sees action on four gun safety bills

HARRISBURG — Halfway through House hearings on gun violence, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee identified four bills that he plans to call up for votes in coming months.

Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, said Wednesday that he’s considering action on soon to be introduced legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, to create “extreme risk protective orders” where a family member can petition the court to remove guns from someone who is a danger to themselves or others; House Bill 2060 sponsored by Rep. Marguerite Quinn R-Bucks, which is similar to a Senate-passed bill to require individuals subject to protection-from-abuse orders to quickly surrender all guns; House Bill 175 sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, to train police officers in how to assess the lethal risk facing victims of domestic violence; and legislation to ban bump stocks, a device attached to semi-automatic rifles that increases a weapon’s rate of fire.

The various sponsors testified about the four bills during three days of hearings this week. The committee has heard testimony from 14 lawmakers so far on bills that address a range of issues covering guns sales, school safety, mental health services, domestic violence and social problems.

Marisco has invited all House lawmakers to testify on bills they have sponsored or their views on the issue.

Some of the bills discussed during the hearing could see action in other committees, he said.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Tom Murt, R-Montgomery, said he is hoping for a Senate floor vote on his House-passed House Bill 1233 to change mental health commitment procedures so individuals in need can get timely outpatient treatment.

The bill would change the current “clear and present danger” standard for determining who gets inpatient and outpatient treatment for a mental illness. It would create a new court-ordered standard to make outpatient treatment more readily available.

The bill would help families intervene earlier to get outpatient treatment before someone becomes dangerous to themselves or others, said Murt.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved HB1233 last month with some amendments.

Klunk said her bill could reduce domestic violence by having police officers assess the lethal risk when responding to a call for a domestic violence incident. Often an individual first realizes that she or he is in imminent danger when they answer questions from a police officer about the actions taken by a suspected abuser, Klunk said.

Rep. Stephen McCarter, D-Montgomery, spoke against Senate-passed Senate Bill 383, which gives school boards authority to allow school employees to carry firearms on school property, calling it an “unbelievably reckless idea” that would increase dangers in the schools.

“Teachers in our schools could not be more opposed to this idea,” said McCarter. “We should listen to them.”

But Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, arguing an armed teacher could stop an assailant, said such a policy “should be up to the school district.”

Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, told his personal story of losing a brother to gun violence as he grew up. He said that experience helped motivate him to sponsor House Bill 135 to allow a second chance for inmates serving sentences of life without parole for crimes. After serving 20 to 25 years of such a sentence, the inmate would have an opportunity for a state parole board hearing, said Dawkins.

The purpose would be to enable the return of adult men to their communities so they could mentor juveniles about staying out of trouble, he added.

Reps. Barry Jozwiak, R-Berks, and Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, suggested that a parole hearing for such an inmate in the age range of 50 to 55 years could be worth considering.

The hearings will resume next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to hear testimony from 18 more lawmakers.