Gun control has become a hot button issue, but that’s to be understood. Between the rapid escalation of mass shootings in the United States over the past few years and concerns about gun regulations impeding on the second amendment rights of citizens, things can quickly become heated. But the high profile of this issue causes activists on either side to often think of things in black and white terms. Successful gun law legislation requires threading the needle between the innate rights of the individual and the well-being of society. Most states have taken some measures to curb the threats of gun violence, but one state has remained behind the curve.
That state is Pennsylvania. In the wake of the Parkland shootings, every mid-Atlantic state has pushed through gun control legislation, but Pennsylvania only passed a single law. The bill, which passed 43-5 in the state Senate, requires those convicted of domestic violence to surrender their firearms to authorities within 24 hours. Critics blame that lack of substantive regulations on Republican leaders beholden to the NRA, and the bill didn’t manage to find traction until lawmakers managed to persuade the NRA to drop their opposition to it. That makes Pennsylvania the thirtieth state to codify such restrictions.
Before the law was passed, those convicted of domestic violence had sixty days to surrender their arms, and the new law prevents a loophole that allowed them to gift their firearms to friends or family. And while judges were allowed to force an immediate surrender of guns in domestic violence cases, this forfeiture only happens in 14% of such cases. For many activists, the passing of the law was a big win. The period immediately after a conviction is an especially dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, and some hope that this law could decrease the incidence of immediate crimes of passion.
Regardless of Pennsylvania’s long history of pro-gun sentiments, this law could harken a bold move towards a more balanced approach to gun control. The bill in question was the first anti-violence legislation to be passed in the state in over a decade, and it indicates that – tepid as it may be – Republicans are willing to support some gun control measures. And while Pennsylvania still has a long way to go, this could be a sign that stricter gun control measures are an inevitability rather than a possibility.