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Pa. House Judiciary Committee advances package of gun laws, including ban on some firearms

  • Ben Wasserstein/WITF

 George Frey / AFP via Getty Images

After a contentious meeting Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee moved five pieces of legislation to regulate firearms in Pennsylvania.

The bills would create mental health reporting guidelines. They would also ban things such as 3D-printed guns, bump stocks, ghost gun parts and automatic and semiautomatic firearms.

The bill would ban what lawmakers refer to as “assault weapons.” It defines them as “a selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user or a firearm that has the ability to accept a large-capacity magazine.”

This would apply to pistols, rifles and shotguns or any firearm with a detachable magazine along with two specified attachments or features.

For rifles, the attachments include things such as telescoping stocks and flash suppressors. For shotguns, this would include pistol grips and magazines with a capacity above five rounds. For pistols, this would include things such as silencers and magazines that attach outside the grip.

A list of firearms that would be banned is included in the bill and lists popular firearms, such as the AR-15 and AK-47 types, that would be banned.

The automatic and semiautomatic firearm ban would not apply to the military or law enforcement.

All the bills passed along party lines with unanimous support from Democrats and unanimous rejection by Republicans.

Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga, was critical of the bill. He noted several firearms listed are commonly used in shooting competitions.

Reps. Joe Hamm, R-Lycoming, and Robert Leadbeter, R-Columbia, said the influx of immigrants at the southern border makes these firearmss more important and compared the situation to that of the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

Ukraine was invaded by Russian military forces, and Israel was attacked by the terrorist group Hamas. The U.S. has not been attacked militarily or by a terrorist group at the southern border. But Hamm advocated for an “armed citizenry.”

“…Pennsylvanians and Americans must be armed and prepared to protect our families and property,” he said.

Some people are trying to enter the U.S. through the legal immigration process, but others are doing so illegally. Leadbeter said that means access to firearms is necessary and justified.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, chastised those Republican members for parroting a rhetoric that, he said, led to events such as the 2019 El Paso shooting.

“I want to say something that shouldn’t have to be said, but words actually matter,” Kenyatta said. “And to hear, at this point, at least two of my colleagues conflate the need for a weapon with folks coming to seek asylum and folks who may have entered our nation illegally.”

Rep. Paul Schemel, R-Franklin, is an attorney and deals with wills regularly. He said the bill would make it illegal for people to leave guns to family members in their will, as they do with other property. That, he said, would criminalize something that is fairly common in certain areas.

The bills are likely to fail in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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