In the wake of the Newtown shootings, the Pennsylvania Legislature will take up gun control next year, lawmakers promise, and the Jewish community will join the debate.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, who has co-sponsored bills to ban assault weapons before, said similar measures would be introduced in the next session.
And while he promised to work hard for such a ban, Frankel added a new wrinkle, saying he wants female members of the legislature — mothers with children in school — to take the lead as its most vocal advocates.
“I want the mothers of the legislature to take the lead because I think they’re the most powerful voices we have as legislators to give voice to this issue,” the Squirrel Hill Democrat said.
Meanwhile, spokesmen for the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the lobbying arm for the state’s 10 Jewish federations as well as independent communities, said they, too, would be taking up the issue in January once the new legislature is sworn in.
“I expect we will be discussing this,” PJC Chair Matt Handel said. “We do know several members of the legislature said they intend to introduce
legislation in the 2013 session; we don’t have details yet, but we know this is an issue that has been discussed very widely.”
Handel, from Montgomery County and a trustee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said the PJC would be faced with two questions: Does it want to take a stand on gun control? And what sort of stand?
“My expectation is there will be a lot of support in the PJC to take a stand,” he said. There’s a great deal of concern right now over what happened in
Connecticut, and we want to prevent that from happening here.”
The PJC will not be crafting any legislation or language of its own, Handel added.
“We tend to be consensus builders,” he said. “If we take a stand, we will look to other politically active religious groups, and Jewish groups, and we will reach out to both sides of the aisle.”
But according to PJC Executive Director Hank Butler, several bills are likely to be introduced dealing with gun control. The PJC’s policy committee will study the measures, make recommendations for the executive committee and ultimately have the whole board, consider.
Frankel said measures dealing with the mentally ill and access to weapons would also be introduced.
As for Republican support for a gun control bill, “I do think some of the Republican members are going to be pressed by their constituents to move something, particularly in the Philadelphia area and the suburbs where there’s still such a thing as a moderate Republican, there will be pressure to move some kind of legislation].”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)