5 Times Pennsylvania Republicans Stood in the Way of Gun Violence Reforms

FILE PHOTO: Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, PA. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

By Ashley Adams

March 28, 2023

Pennsylvania’s state and federal Democratic lawmakers have proposed numerous bills to address the plague of gun violence, but Republicans have repeatedly blocked those efforts, and introduced their own bills that do nothing to help keep people safe.

In Pennsylvania, roughly 1,600 people die from gun violence each year, and 3,000 more are injured, according to CeaseFirePA, a firearms safety advocacy group.

Pennsylvania lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have called for stricter firearms restrictions, including universal background checks, red flag laws, and mandatory lost and stolen gun reporting guidelines. Republicans, however, have effectively blocked these measures at both the state and federal level by voting them down or refusing to hold votes on them at all.

In the wake of another deadly US mass shooting — this one at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday in which three children and three adults were killed — many Americans are asking themselves, again: how many more lives have to be lost before Republicans take meaningful steps in an attempt to end the plague of gun violence in America?

Here are five recent examples where Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania either proposed  legislation that would do nothing to address gun violence—or blocked bills that would:

House Bill 1696

HB 1696 was introduced in the state House by Rep. Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks) last session and would prohibit state and local cooperation with federal officials that attempt to enforce any gun safety laws, rules, orders, or actions that Republicans think violate the Second Amendment. It did not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2681

HB 2681 was introduced in the state House by Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester) last session and would prevent individuals ages 18 to 21 from purchasing, possessing, or transporting assault-style rifles. 

Republican lawmakers blocked the proposal and dramatically altered the bill to a constitutional amendment allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. The bill never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 1288

SB 1288 was introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) in 2022 and would allow school employees who possess a valid Pennsylvania concealed carry permit to be armed while on school property, so long as they complete a firearms course from a certified instructor first.

Mastriano introduced the bill just weeks after last May’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman shot 19 children and two teachers to death.

Referencing the Uvalde shooting in his memo introducing the legislation, Mastriano wrote, “Mass murderers are often attracted to ‘soft targets’ where they know victims are not armed.” 

While Mastriano touted school safety as the driving force behind his proposed legislation, Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the proposal wouldn’t do anything to actually address the issue. He said that allowing school staff to bring more guns into school is a dangerous proposition.

“This proposed legislation is nothing short of outrageous,” said Askey. “The concept of bringing more guns to solve this crisis is totally off base. What you’re doing is putting students, staff, and first responders into a very dangerous situation.”

The bill never made it out of the Senate Education Committee.

Bipartisan Background Checks Act

At the federal level, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act was introduced in the US House last session and would expand background checks for all gun sales and transfers. Under current law, licensed gun sellers are required to run potential buyers through an FBI database to prevent felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, and others who should be ineligible from buying or owning weapons.

But because of a loophole in the law, unlicensed gun dealers, including those who operate at gun shows or sell firearms online, are not required to conduct the same screenings. This bill would close the loophole and establish background check requirements for unlicensed gun dealers.

US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was the only Republican lawmaker from the commonwealth to vote in favor of the bill. The other eight Republicans voted against it. While the bill passed the US House, it did not make it through the US Senate.

Enhanced Background Checks Act

Another federal piece of legislation introduced last year, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, would close another loophole that allows some people to buy guns without a background check if that screening is not completed within three days. The bill increases the amount of time from 3 business days to a minimum of 10 business days, that a licensed gun manufacturer or seller must wait to receive a background check before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.

Again, Fitzpatrick was the only one of the nine Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania to vote in favor of the measure. While the bill passed the US House, it did not make it through the US Senate.


  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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