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Hearings on gun bills a start, but lawmakers have to pass something

Published March 13. 2018 12:19PM

Three weeks after a murderous rampage at a Florida high school, it once again appears that gun-control efforts on Capitol Hill have become bogged down while lawmakers wait for a clear sign from America’s most mercurial president on what he might — or might not — be willing to sign into law.

So it’s encouraging to learn that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, has scheduled a series of public hearings next month on the various gun-related bills now making the rounds of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The hearings, which will run from April 9-12, primarily in the House Majority Caucus Room on the first floor of the state Capitol, are intended to “help (House) members and the public focus” on public safety, violence and firearms issues, Marsico said in a statement.

We don’t know if Mr. Marsico, who will call it a career at the end of 2018, has been paying attention, but it’s not the public’s focus he needs to worry about.

Discussions about how to tackle America’s murderous cycle of mass shootings has been the topic of dinner table, classroom and water cooler discussions for years, even before a lone gunman mowed down teachers and students in the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.

In this case, America’s children are leading while adults can only follow.

This week, students across the country will walk out of class to protest the lack of legislative action to end — or even prevent — more incidents such as those at Parkland.

Students at Cumberland Valley High School, who spoke eloquently to PennLive last week about their own fears and frustration over how the adults who are charged with protecting them have failed to act, are similarly planning a rally of their own.

Meanwhile …

Like the GOP-majority Congress, Republicans who control the Pennsylvania House and Senate have been frustratingly unwilling to take up even the most modest of gun-control measures.

But Republicans had no problem pushing through an eleventh-hour bill that gave the NRA legal standing to sue municipalities over their local gun ordinances. That bill was declared unconstitutional. Undeterred, lawmakers moved to revive the measure last spring.

Granted, Republicans are only part of the problem. In a state with a proud tradition of hunting and outdoorsmanship, some blue dog Democrats have also been reluctant to throw their support to gun-control bills.

So it’s good to see Marsico acknowledging that “with the recent tragedies in Parkland, Orlando and Las Vegas, as well other school shootings that have occurred over the last year, it is clear we need to act to prevent these situations from happening in the future.”

While those incidents are the latest in a string of deadly shootings, the phenomenon is hardly new. And a battery of experts is already working on ways to prevent the next tragedy. It’s worthy of the committee’s attention.

In his statement, Marsico says he plans to hold a public comment period when the hearings conclude and then hold another as-yet-unscheduled hearing after that.

Marsico says he’s doing that as “a way to build bipartisan consensus for an effective legislative strategy to keep Pennsylvania students and residents safe.”

Pro-gun control Democrats say they’re looking forward to “robust, honest and fair discussion about the specific actions we will take to turn the tide against gun violence and deliver on our promise as elected officials to keep Pennsylvanians safe.”

This is all good to hear. But hearings, like thoughts and prayers, are meaningless without the votes and deeds to make such protections a reality. And this year, voters are watching.

We’d urge Mr. Marsico and his colleagues to keep that in mind as well.


The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.

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