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It has been a devastating few weeks and while we have been busy advocating for better gun laws, we have not been busy keeping you all updated on our doings.

March For Our Lives

Today, we joined hundreds of like minded folks (and some fantastic young people from March for Our Lives) for a moving and inspiring rally at Mellon Park. We heard from a gun violence survivor from the Virginia Tech shooting, community organizers who see and live the daily toll gun violence takes in our local communities of color, from other gun safety advocates on how to push for better gun laws and from Squirrel Hill Stands member Miri Rabinowitz, whose husband Jerry was murdered in the October 27, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. ALL of the speakers were moving but Miri's words, including her reaction to the shooting of 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde, were incredibly powerful.

Wear Orange for Gun Violence Awareness

Last weekend we joined CeaseFirePA and Moms Demand Action to participate in Wear Orange for Gun Violence Awareness. The weekend was kicked off by a proclamation by Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey. Squirrel Hill Stands members and gun violence survivors Dan Leger and Miri Rabinowitz were in attendance. This event was followed by a community gathering to elevate the voices of gun violence survivors and a walk. The speakers were moving and inspiring and the commitment to action was palpable.

Please check out our past events for more on what we have been up to.


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.


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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