Central PA gun owners discuss proposals on gun reform

WEST HANOVER TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, P.A. --- From students to President Donald Trump, the conversation continues on what to do about purchasing guns.

President Trump tweeted Thursday support for comprehensive background checks, raising the purchasing age, universally, to 21 and banning bump stocks.

Some gun owners, like Matthew Fox, said if the president does one thing, he'd want to see an improvement in background checks.

“Right now, as it stands, you can go through a background check but you don’t have you’re mental health in there. It’s like they check everything else but they don’t check that one thing. You can raise it to 21 but it won’t stop anyone,” said Fox.

For bump stocks, Joseph Staudt, owner of Staudt's Gun Shop, said the options would be to include them in the list of ATF National Firearms Act NFA) items, which includes more regulated modifications like silencers and machine guns.

The only other option is to put them on the restricted list.

“Problem with that is it’s easily replicated. You could make an improvised one with a belt loop and a piece of string, to be perfectly honest,” said Staudt.

Pennsylvania Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) introduced two bills aimed at, what he says, will lower gun violence and prevent mass shootings.

One bill would mirror legislation based in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

It would restore a semi-automatic ban from 1994 that ended in 2004 which banned 150 models of semi-automatic weapons, as well as gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds.

“These military-grade weapons have no legitimate place in civilian life,” Fontana said, in a statement, “With poor accuracy, they have no useful purpose for hunting or self-defense. These rapid-fire weapons are specifically designed to spray bullets and kill many people quickly.”

The other bill would allow family members to petition a court to suspend an individuals access to firearms if they prove they’re a threat to themselves or others, known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO).

“By enacting this ERPO process, our state would empower loved ones, who are closest to someone who is exhibiting dangerous behaviors, to temporarily take away their access to guns,” Fontana said. “Around 42 percent of mass shooters exhibit warning signs or concerning behaviors before they commit a crime. ERPOs would help families and police officers prevent a possible tragedy before it happens.”

Staudt said this effort comes at a time when uses for semi-automatic rifles increased in the commonwealth, just this past year.

“Now, the AR-15 in Pennsylvania is a hunting rifle. You can hunt coyote, woodchuck, varmint with an AR-15,” said Staudt.

Fox said federal or statutory bans will do little to stop an incident like Parkland, Florida.

“How many time do you have to sit there and see the red flags all through that? It’s not really a ban to rifles, it’s the person behind the trigger,” said Fox.

Sen. Fontana said the bills are still circulating for sponsorship.

He said it would need to, eventually, go through a committee and a majority chair would have to forward it onto the floor for debate.