The Lead

Lancaster Co. lawmakers, hopefuls prepare for renewed debate on gun violence reduction bills 

By: - May 26, 2022 10:37 am
Ismail Smith-Wade-El

Democratic state House hopeful Ismail Smith-Wade-El speaks during a May Day rally in Lancaster, Pa., on Sunday, 5/1/22 (Capital-Star photo by Lauren Manelius).

LANCASTER, Pa. – Following the recent shooting deaths of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., state lawmakers, and aspiring state lawmakers alike, who represent Lancaster County are gearing up for yet another battle over gun violence reduction legislation.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, agree that it’s time for us to get a handle on guns in this nation,” Ismail Smith-Wade-El, the Democratic nominee for the 49th House District, told the Capital-Star.  

“Simple, common sense solutions, including background checks, red flag laws, and banning machines of war, would help curb violence in every community,” he continued.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, was unavailable for comment. His spokesperson, Mike Straub, said Cutler believes “We must always be diligent in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill, or anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm.”

Straub added that Pennsylvania has some of the most “stringent and robust” background check laws in the country.

Pa. House bill would ban sale of body armor that aided Buffalo, Texas shooters | Thursday Coffee

Unlike neighboring states New York and New Jersey, current Pennsylvania law does not require a criminal background check for the sale of all firearms; it only requires one for the sale of handguns. Pennsylvania also does not require a background check when purchasing the permit required to own a gun, while New York and New Jersey do.

“We must remain committed to enforcing existing laws and all background procedures while also examining and addressing what societal factors could cause someone to seek to harm innocent people,” Straub continued. 

Both the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters would have been able to purchase the firearms they used legally in Pennsylvania under its current laws.

Straub declined to comment on whether Cutler would support stricter gun violence reduction measures if a majority of his constituents were shown to support it, as well as whether Cutler believes white supremacy was behind the Buffalo or Uvalde massacres. 

“We know that the Buffalo shooter intentionally targeted a Black community and sought out non-white people to kill for his Facebook livestream,” Smith-Wade-El told the Capital-Star.

“[M]ost people who commit massacres have a long, documented history of violence against the women in their lives, and [the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters] are no exception,” Smith-Wade-El said. “Interpersonal violence, especially gender-based violence, has been shown to snowball into acts of mass violence. For all of us to be safe, our Black people, brown people, and women must be safe. There is no safety as long as any of us lives in fear.” 

Smith-Wade-El also joined Democratic lawmakers around the commonwealth by calling out the role of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in thwarting attempts at gun violence reduction legislation.

“I cannot claim to know the hearts and minds of every elected lawmaker. But I do know that there are those who are unashamed to take money from the NRA when they run for office, and they have been unified in preventing, defeating, and weakening gun control legislation time and again,” Smith-Wade-El told the Capital-Star.

“The job of a legislator is to improve the lives of our families, to ensure that everyone who calls this commonwealth home is housed, fed, employed, healthy, and safe from violence,” he continued. “Some legislators have chosen to offer only platitudes and grief. But the job description of a legislator is to write and pass laws that keep us safe, not to make excuses about what is and isn’t politically feasible.” 

The Capital-Star made repeated attempts to reach Republican Lancaster County Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin for comment, but did not receive a response. Neither has commented publicly on either shooting. Rep. Brett Miller, R-Lancaster, also declined to comment.

Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, who told the Capital-Star he was resting at home after a COVID diagnosis, referred to the statement posted on his Facebook page outlining the gun violence reduction measures that Democrats currently are pushing in the House and Senate.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.