President Biden has announced a package of executive orders which include 1) a requirement for background checks for all purchasers of "ghost guns", homemade firearms often assembled from kits and lacking serial numbers. For years, federal officials have been sounding the alarm about an increasing black market for homemade, military-style semi-automatic rifles and handguns; (2) a rule designating pistols used with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles, which require a federal license to own and are subject to a more thorough application process and a $200 tax. This type of pistol was used in the recent massacre in Boulder, CO; (3) publication within 60 days of model “red flag” legislation, which if adopted by the states would allow police officers and family members to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others; (4) a change in Justice Department policy to provide more information on firearms trafficking; and (5) investments in violence intervention programs aimed at reducing gun violence in urban communities, across five federal agencies. Mr. Biden also announced that he is nominating David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Mr. Chipman has advocated for common sense gun safety measures, most notably a ban on assault weapons and is an outstanding appointment to head ATF.

The president also committed to push for SWEEPING legislative action including comprehensive background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, a national 'red flag' law and a $5 billion investment in evidence based violence interventions.

Legislation faces fierce Republican opposition and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey could be critical.

Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence called out Senator Toomey to move legislation forward publicly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, a community group founded after the October 2018 shooting that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue, supported the executive actions and pressed lawmakers, Mr. Toomey in particular, to do more. “We ask that the memories of our loved ones be a blessing to the living,” Miri Rabinowitz, whose husband, Jerry, was killed in the Tree of Life shooting, said in the statement. “We urge Senator Toomey to push forward on sensible gun laws so that his legacy on gun safety will in fact be a blessing.”

And in the Jewish Chronicle: "Dor Hadash member Dan Leger, who was shot and seriously wounded during the attack at the Tree of Life building, thanked Sen. Bob Casey for his “commitment to gun safety” and urged Sen. Pat Toomey “to step up” “By supporting legislation on background checks, assault weapons and high capacity magazines, Senator Toomey can end his term of public service with a meaningful legacy as a gun safety advocate.”

Read the Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence statement here.

Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette coverage here .

Read the Jewish Forward coverage here.

Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed two important gun safety bills. HR8, the Background Checks Expansion Bill, if enacted into law, will require a background check for all firearm sales, including private, internet, and gun show sales.

HR1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 also passed the House. This bill (if enacted) will close the 'Charleston loophole', extending the period of time that law enforcement has to compete a background check from 3 days to 20 days. Currently, if a background check is not completed within 72 hours, the sale can go through. This is how the killer in the massacre at the Mother Emanuel AME Church was able to 'legally' acquire his weapons and murder 9 people. The vast majority of background checks are completed in under 5 minutes. Very few potential gun buyers who are eligible to purchase a gun legally will be inconvenienced while lives will be saved.

Both bills face steep opposition in the Senate. Check out the 'take action' tab on our website to learn how you can help.

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Members of Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence had a conference call with Senator Toomey and his staff yesterday. Constituents shared their personal experiences with gun violence and urged the Senator to both co-sponsor and lobby his Republican colleagues to support the Background Check Expansion Bill (S.529). While the senator has long supported some expansion to background checks, he is not a clear supporter of the current bill. He did commit to speaking to his colleagues about background checks and keeping us informed. It will be essential to make sure that Senator Toomey continues to hear from his constituents that we support this bill AND that this bill, when enacted, will SAVE LIVES. See the 'take action' tab on our website for how you can help.

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