HARRISBURG – The state House recessed for the summer on Monday without holding a final vote on legislation to close a loophole that advocates for victims of domestic violence say makes it too easy for abusers to get access to guns.
The decision angered advocates who’d made the legislation their top priority in the weeks of debate over gun reform that arose from the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
“I’ve had my share of disappointing days” at the state Capitol, said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA. “Today is beyond disappointing.”
Goodman said she and other advocates will continue to lobby for the legislation and called on the Legislature to act on the measure during the fall session.
A group of Republican lawmakers joined supporters from the gun-control groups and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
That included state Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder County, who said that he supported the legislation because he doesn’t believe it infringes on the rights of responsible gun-owners.
“Every right comes with responsibilities,” Keller said. When gun-owners either commit domestic violence or a judge decides that they are a danger of domestic violence, “that’s when the judicial system comes into play” he said. “We have a good piece of legislation.”
A similar measure passed the state Senate in a unanimous vote in March.
Monday’s vote was cancelled after lobbyists for gun-owners said they were opposed to the measure. Kim Stolfer, president of Firearms Owners Against Crime said the House version had been changed substantially from the version that passed the Senate.
Stolfer said Monday that he’d sent an alert to lawmakers warning them that since his group opposed the measure, they would grade the vote and potentially raise it with voters ahead of the fall election.
“This is a binary choice,” he said. “If you think gun-owners don’t count, God bless you. November is going to be interesting.”
Advocates for domestic violence pledged to continue lobbying for the measure, while claiming that the delay puts lives at risk.
“Now we are making victims vulnerable over the summer,” said Julie Bancroft, director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She said that about two-thirds of domestic violence deaths in Pennsylvania involve a gun.
Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, said that there “was confusion” among lawmakers after Stolfer raised his objections.
Miskin said legislative leaders expect to bring the measure up for a vote in the fall. He said the delay will allow lawmakers to fully weigh the legislation before voting on it, he said.