State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Gun control groups meet to keep pressure on this fall

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 22, 2013 10:18 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Gun control activists from across the state met in Harrisburg Friday, swapping ideas for maintaining their cause's momentum and persuading lawmakers at the state and federal level to support tighter restrictions on firearms.

In sessions largely closed to the media, about 100 people went over messaging and organizing tactics.

Shira Goodman, head of Ceasefire PA, said her advocacy group remains committed to advancing state legislation to expand background checks requirements to minimize the chances guns will land in the hands of the mentally ill or people with a criminal history.

"We think they could do that this fall, certainly by the end of this session next year," Goodman said. "Now, there are other things that will take longer that we know that Pennsylvania might not be ready to do yet."

The group also supports a measure requiring lost or stolen guns to be reported to the police. Such proposals have been introduced in the past, but attracted more attention in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting last year. On Friday, the gathering of activists found itself at a Harrisburg hotel, one ballroom away from the annual fall meeting of another group not completely supportive of their positions: the state Republican Party.

In the weeks after the Newtown shooting, Republican lawmakers insisted the attention should be on mental health policies.

Inside the gun violence prevention summit, one speaker took a good-natured swipe at the state GOP confab down the hall. But Goodman said the opportunity for "cross-pollination" made the coincidence fortuitous.

"Certainly, we're not going to interrupt their meeting; they're not going to interrupt ours," Goodman said. "But if people meet in the hallway and there's a chance for that kind of informal dialogue, I think that would be helpful."

Gun rights and gun control activists were meeting in the Capitol hallways earlier this year, too. Dueling rallies were held on the same day in Harrisburg in January. Legislation followed - to expand background checks on one side, and to render crackdowns unenforceable on the other side. None of the bills has advanced.


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