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Pa. congressman opposes bipartisan background check legislation in House Judiciary hearing

Written by Lucy Perkins/WESA | Feb 7, 2019 9:23 AM
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Rep. Guy Reschenthaler speaks out during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence prevention. (YouTube)

Congressman Guy Reschenthaler voiced strong opposition to a bipartisan House bill that would require background checks for every firearm sale, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"The overwhelming majority of American gun owners are hardworking, law-abiding citizens," Reschenthaler said. "[This bill] is actually the first step to creating a national gun registry."

Reschenthaler, a gun owner himself, said the bill "does nothing to address the root causes of gun violence - like mental health," and instead just limits the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

The Republican serves on the Judiciary Committee alongside two other Pennsylvania lawmakers, Democrats Madeleine Dean and Mary Gay Scanlon - the committee's vice chair. The committee heard from, and questioned, experts and advocates on both sides of the gun debate throughout the day, from doctors to professors, about the effectiveness of background checks.

"More gun bans are not going to solve this problem," Reschenthaler said, though the legislation being debated would only address background check loopholes. "The tragic shootings in San Bernardino and Newtown occurred in states that already had an assault weapons ban in place," he said, referring to the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first graders and six adults dead.

Connecticut only expanded its assault weapons ban in 2013, and passed other comprehensive gun control legislation, after the elementary school shooting.

Reschenthaler's track record in the state Senate, where he served prior to entering Congress this year, received solid ratings from groups opposed to gun-control regulation. His remarks Wednesday did not mention the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October, in which the gunman used an assault style weapon that he obtained legally.

"I would urge my colleagues across the aisle to focus on enforcing the laws we already have on the books, that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, gang members and others that wish to do us harm," Reschenthaler said.

The bill does have the backing of another Pennsylvania Republican, Brian Fitzpatrick and every Pennsylvania Democrat.

Sen. Pat Toomey, another Republican of Pennsylvania, told WESA in January that he supports expanding background checks too, citing internet and certain commercial sales as loopholes that should be closed. Toomey has previously sponsored such legislation, and said one of the only silver linings of Democrats taking control of the House is the opportunity to pass background check legislation.

"I think they will do that," the Senator said in January. "I think [the House] will send it to the Senate, and if we can get a few more Republicans to take my view, which is that expanding background checks does not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, then maybe we've got a shot at doing something here."

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