As public polling for an assault weapons ban sits at 2-1 in favor, two bills on the controversial class of firearm could be topics of conversation at open House Judiciary Committee meetings planned for early April.
The most recent of the bills on the topic, Rep. Curtis Thomas’ (D-Philadelphia) HB 2120 to add age restrictions for assault weapons sales, was introduced on March 2. It would ban the sale or transfer of assault weapons to anyone under the age of 21.
Listing a litany of weapon producers and designs, including semi-automatic weapons with foldable stocks, flash suppressors or bayonet mounts, Thomas said the bill was designed to cut down the accessibility of the weapons to young people.
“We should not be able to sell AR-15s and assault weapons to kids,” Thomas said. “That should be left for adults.”
Currently, 18 is the minimum age to purchase any firearm in Pennsylvania.
Thomas’ is not the only bill currently introduced on assault weapons in the House. In January 2017, Rep. Ed Gainey (D-Allegheny) introduced his own bill – HB 194.
The bill, which has over 20 Democratic co-sponsors, including Thomas, would outright ban the sale or possession of any new assault weapons except for military or law enforcement members. The bill grandfathers private citizens who currently possess one of the mentioned firearms.
To Jeff Dempsey, program director at the anti-gun violence advocacy group CeaseFire Pa, the two bills are indicative of a rising trend of awareness and support for action on guns.
“There’s a public awakening to talk about this,” he said.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll from February, Americans support stricter gun control laws, 66 percent to 31 percent. The poll found a similar split in support for an assault weapons ban.
Thomas’s and Gainey’s bills were both referred to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin).
In a release Tuesday, the veteran House lawmaker said he planned to hold open committee meetings for any House member to come and opine on public safety legislation like an assault weapons ban.
“This topic is too important to exclude any member’s point of view, and I would hope all of the members of the House will be able to participate,” Marsico said in the release. “We are looking at this as a way to build bipartisan consensus for an effective legislative strategy to keep Pennsylvania students and residents safe.”
Stephen Caruso is a staff writer for The PLS Reporter, a Harrisburg-based nonpartisan news website devoted to covering Pennsylvania government and politics.