State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

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Bump stock ban, limited firearm controls pass House committee

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 20, 2018 6:00 AM

With members of the gun control group Moms Demand Action looking on, the House Judiciary Committee debated a number of gun bills. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) - Over the course of two days this week, a state House panel pushed forward a raft of gun control measures that have accumulated in the chamber in recent months.

This is the first significant action the GOP-controlled House has taken to change the commonwealth's gun laws in a number of years.

However, it's unclear when--or if--the full chamber intends to act on the measures.

On Tuesday, members of the Judiciary Committee voted to send four measures to the House floor.

One would let police or family members request that a court temporarily seize guns from a person in crisis. Another closes a loophole that let people convicted of conspiracy to commit a violent felony own guns.

The highest-profile one was a measure that would make it harder for domestic abusers to possess weapons.

The Senate already passed it, and Governor Tom Wolf supports it. Allegheny County Democrat Dan Miller said there was no reason the House shouldn't follow suit.

"I think that these things have to move forward," he told his colleagues. "During this session, we've had key things brought to us. We have to act. We have to have votes."

The Republican-dominated committee also moved a measure that would somewhat relax gun laws--letting people involuntarily committed to a mental health facility petition a court to have their gun rights reinstated.

Luzerne County Republican Tarah Toohil voted against it.

"I'm just concerned about family members not having notice about this, and I do believe that potentially, unfortunately, that this could result in the death of a family member," she said.  

Members stopped short of passing any broader gun controls on Tuesday. Those came up in the committee's follow-up session the next morning.

The key bills that day were one banning bump stocks--which can make a semi-automatic weapon function like a fully automatic one--and another broadening background checks for firearm purchases.

Current law doesn't require checks for certain purchases made at gun shows.

The bump stock ban--which originated after last year's mass shooting in Las Vegas--passed in a narrow 14-13 vote.

But the background check expansion failed in a similar fashion--in an equally tight 13-14 vote.

It's unclear what fate awaits the raft of measures on the House floor.

Asked whether there's a plan to bring them to a vote in the near future, House Republican Leader Dave Reed said only that "they will go through the process."

This story has been updated to include information about the second day of gun control hearings. 

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