We have been busy meeting with legislators, but less busy letting you all know about it. We meet with legislators to move them to support gun safety legislation, but also to work on strategy with our allies and to coordinate on additional actions, such as in district gun safety events and letter to the editor and Op Ed pieces.

Members of Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, including constituents of all the legislators have met with:

Senator Bob Casey

Senator Casey is a strong ally on gun safety and we discussed strategy for moving forward on a comprehensive background checks bill. S.529/HR.8 would require a background check for every firearm purchased, closing the 'gun show' loophole and requiring a background check for gun show, private, and internet sales. The bills faces stiff opposition in the Senate and we will be working hard to help move it forward. We plan to touch base with Senator Casey's office regularly.

State Senator Jay Costa

Sen. Costa is an ally and a leader on the gun safety issue. He has committed to writing an Op Ed piece to keep the issue in the public eye.

State Representative Dan Frankel

Rep. Frankel is also a strong ally on gun safety. We discussed what might be possible in the State House, given the current anti-gun safety majority. Rep. Frankel is hopeful for the passage of a funding bill establishing grants for gun violence prevention/intervention (HB696) as well as possible movement on background checks or extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs). Realistically, these will be a heavy lift but we are in this for the long haul.

State Representative Nick Pisciottano

Rep. Pisciottano is a freshman state representative in a purple district. He favors gun safety legislation but we can help by continuing to demonstrate constituent support for the issue. He has committed to host an in district event which will likely take place this summer.

State Representative Emily Kinkead

Freshman Rep. Kinkead is already a strong ally on gun safety. She is hosting a virtual event in cooperation with Rep. Wheatley. We discussed additional ways to partner, including the possibility of another in district event and an opinion piece. We are also following up with her office on issues of safe firearms storage and education.

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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.

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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.

Read more here

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