Pennsylvania Advances Five Gun Control Bills, Including Assault Weapons Ban

On January 17, 2024, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee made five important gun control proposals, one of which was to ban the sale of assault weapons. There was a clear split along party lines in this decision, with all Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against it. This shows how deeply divided people are on the subject of gun control.

There would be a ban on multi-burst trigger activators like bump stocks and a wider ban on assault weapons under the proposed law. This last group is described in the bill as including semiautomatic rifles with features like folding or telescopic stocks, large magazines, flash suppressors, or pistol grips that stand out. Attack weapons are only banned for new sales; the military and law enforcement are free. On the other hand, the ban on devices tied to triggers goes back in time and includes a provision for confiscation.

The House Judiciary Committee brought up the following bills:

    • HB 335: Bans binary triggers and slide fire/bump stocks.
    • HB 336: Prohibits any semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a magazine greater than 10 rounds.
    • HB 777: Bans unserialized frames/receivers and DIY gun kits, effectively ending the ability to make firearms without government oversight.
    • HB 1157: Accelerates reporting of mental health adjudications to the Pennsylvania State Police.
    • HB 1190: Bans 3D printed firearms unless one has a license to manufacture firearms​​.

Democrats say these bills are needed to stop gun crime and keep communities safe from murder and suicide. But Republicans say the measures violate constitutional rights and would mostly affect law-abiding citizens. They say that to lower crime, current laws should be strictly enforced and criminals should be prosecuted more effectively.

Representative Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) stressed that no constitutional right is sacred and that the government can limit rights in a way that keeps people safe. Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Lycoming/Sullivan, on the other hand, said that these kinds of rules only affect law-abiding people and that criminals will still be able to get guns illegally. He used Ukraine and Israel as examples of places where people need to carry guns to protect their families and property.

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Getting these bills passed in the House Judiciary Committee is only the beginning of a longer process that will lead to laws. The entire House will now look at the bills. Because the Democrats only have a small majority in the House, it is still not clear if these bills will be passed. If they do pass the House, they will then have to deal with the Republican-controlled state Senate, where they are likely to encounter fierce opposition.

The progress of the gun control bills in Pennsylvania mirrors the ongoing national discussion on gun regulation, which strives to balance public safety concerns with Second Amendment rights. This development in Pennsylvania holds significant weight as it has the potential to impact similar legislative initiatives in other states.

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