GOP governor candidate Doug Mastriano says gun ownership is a “God-given right,” introduced a bill to limit the reach of federal gun laws and punish any state employees, agents, and officials who enforce them, and co-sponsored another bill that would have made it easier for domestic abusers to carry concealed guns.
The lives of 21 families changed forever on Tuesday, when an 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 entered a fourth grade classroom school in Uvalde, Texas and opened fire, killing 19 students and 2 teachers and injuring 17 more.
The massacre was the deadliest school shooting in the United States in nearly a decade, the second deadliest ever, and the 27th school shooting in the country this year.
In the aftermath, Republican politicians in Pennsylvania and across the country are once again offering their thoughts and prayers, but refusing to take any concrete action to end the suffering that befalls victims of gun violence and their families. They could join Democrats like Gov. Tom Wolf, who just last month called on the Republican-led state legislature to strengthen gun laws to protect Pennsylvanians from violence. They could introduce their own efforts to reduce the number of deadly firearms in a country that already has more guns than people.
Instead, Republicans are literally arguing that evil cannot be legislated and that gun violence cannot be stopped by laws—even though mass shootings are a uniquely American epidemic. In no other country are children murdered at school with such devastating regularity, and yet the Republican response time and time again is effectively to shrug and throw their hands in the air.
Supposedly “pro-life” and “tough on crime” Republicans do have one idea that they seem to think will stop the massacre of children: give people more guns. In fact, after the shooting on Tuesday, Texas’ top elected law enforcement official said the way to prevent children from being killed while they learn arithmetic and grammar is to arm teachers.
Mastriano, a current state Senator, has thus far been quiet on the Uvalde shooting, with the exception of sharing Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry’s thoughts and prayers post on Facebook and retweeting an attack on his Democratic opponent, current state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, for supporting gun safety laws.
Mastriano’s silence is unsurprising, because if he were to have his way, Pennsylvania’s gun laws would look a lot more like the ones in Texas, a state where politicians so fetishize guns and make it so easy to buy them that its governor once lamented the state wasn’t number one in national gun sales.
Just last year, Mastriano introduced a bill that aimed to limit the reach of federal gun laws and prevent state employees, agents, and officials from enforcing them.The bill would designate any federal laws designed to register, restrict or ban the ownership of guns, ammunition and gun accessories as “unenforceable” by state employees and agents. Under the bill, any “state actors” who fulfilled their duties and enforced the country’s laws would risk losing their jobs and benefits, among other penalties.
The bill failed to gain traction, even among other Republicans.
Mastriano also co-sponsored another bill, SB 565, that would allow anyone who wants to carry concealed guns to be able to do so without a background check and permit. The bill was inspired by a similar proposal in Texas, which was signed into law last summer.
The Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature passed their own bill in November 2021, and in an op-ed written just days later, Mastriano claimed that making it easier for people to get guns would make communities safer “acting as a deterrence to potential shooter situations.”
In that same op-ed, Mastriano—who plotted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and was present outside the US Capitol during the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—also lambasted those who support gun safety laws and criminal justice reform as being “soft on crime.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf ultimately vetoed SB 565, pointing out that removing the permitting and background check requirements for concealed carry would make it easier for domestic abusers to obtain guns.
“This legislation, which eliminates the requirement for individuals to obtain a license before carrying a concealed firearm, will only exacerbate gun violence and jeopardize the safety of all Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in his veto statement in December 2021. ”Each year there are more than 1,600 victims of gun violence in Pennsylvania. These victims and communities deserve to have meaningful legislation passed to address the scourge of gun violence.”
Such legislation is unlikely to happen under a Republican-led legislature. It’s certainly not going to happen if Mastriano becomes the commonwealth’s next governor. Instead, what the commonwealth could see if he wins and passes his gun agenda is far more guns, far more gun violence, and far more gun deaths in Pennsylvania communities.