PITTSBURGH – February 14, 2019 – On the one-year anniversary of the Parkland mass shooting tragedy, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today reintroduced legislation that would empower families and police officers to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is a threat to themselves or others.
“In nearly half of all mass shootings, the killer overtly expressed threats or deranged views aimed at harming people,” Fontana said. “It’s time that our state law backs families who are trying to protect innocent people while getting their loved ones the help they need.
“If my proposal were in place, it very well may have prevented both the Parkland and Squirrel Hill shootings. Inaction is no longer an option.”
In cases where there is documented evidence that someone is threatening harm to themselves or others, Fontana’s bill (Senate Bill 293) would empower a county common pleas court to suspend an individual’s access to firearms for up to a year. Modeled after domestic and sexual assault protection orders, Fontana’s proposed Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) would require such individuals to immediately surrender their guns to police. The ERPO would also prohibit them from buying, selling or possessing firearms during the suspension.
In issuing an ERPO, the judge could also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure that they get the help they need. During the suspension period, the subject could request a hearing to have the ERPO rescinded. Once the suspension period ends, a hearing would be held to determine if the ERPO should be lifted or renewed.
“No one wants to see firearms in a deranged person’s hands,” Fontana said. “We can no longer stand back and wait for the next mass shooting at a school or church.”
Fontana said people on all sides of the gun issue need to step up and “seek common ground and workable solutions that prevent gun violence while preserving Second Amendment rights.” He noted that most gun control advocates respect Second Amendment rights; and most gun rights supporters favor reasonable firearm limitations.
The Brookline lawmaker lamented that it would be best if Congress addressed gun violence issues and enacted uniform measures that could be implemented nationwide.
“Until that happens, Pennsylvanians need to do what we can to support police officers and ensure the safety of those in our state,” he said.
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