Western Pennsylvania reactions to Obama's gun violence proposals
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Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald:
"It seems very reasonable. It seems very sensible, and I think it's something Congress should consider taking a look at it."
A Democrat from Squirrel Hill, Mr. Fitzgerald said the nation must "figure out how to protect the Second Amendment" while also adopting reasonable measures such as universal background checks and the threat posed by straw purchases. He said the nation also must "really crack down and enforce existing laws."
In a statement, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a gun-rights supporter, said he's reviewing the proposals:
"Second-Amendment rights are important to many Pennsylvanians and must be protected, but there may be areas of agreement with the White House that can be addressed to improve public safety."
The statement did not say what those areas of cooperation might be, but in the past, he's called for greater efforts to limit firearms access for the mentally ill.
"Among other things," he said in December, "we need to implement more effective methods of identifying and protecting ourselves from dangerous and deranged individuals who seek to carry out such atrocities. I would also consider legislation that would make it more difficult for criminals and deranged individuals to acquire guns."
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, a former child and family psychiatrist, said in a statement:
"I will not allow this opportunity to go by without working on meaningful reforms in the mental healthcare system that will ultimately save lives. I will be conducting a thorough review of federal mental healthcare programs and spending to ensure tax dollars are getting down to the level of the patient and children in particular. In addition we will also be reviewing the related research underway at the CDC, National Institutes of Health and Mental Health and seek out any and all expert perspectives as we examine the ways to improve current policies."
Kim Stolfer, chairman of the Pennsylvania political action committee Firearms Owners Against Crime, said sufficient gun regulations are on the books already but the federal government has fumbled their enforcement.
"Nothing [in Obama's announcement] would have stopped the shooting in the school and nothing explains why the federal government didn't do its jobs and apply current law."
Mr. Stolfer, of South Fayette, said the president and his cabinet simply want to restrict Second Amendment rights.
"I don't think the speech did anything to quell the unrest in gun owners," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Shira Goodman, executive director of the anti-gun violence group CeaseFirePA:
"We're very pleased with what we've heard, and we especially agree with what [Obama] said: that our leaders need to hear from the people."
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, endorsed Mr. Obama's package of proposals and echoed the president's concern that the measures won't be enacted without grassroots support.
Mr. Doyle said some members of both parties are under intense pressure from the National Rifle Association to resist new gun-control measures.
He said that pressure can be turned back only if great numbers of constituents line up in support of the initiatives.
"There isn't anything here that I haven't either already supported or wouldn't support," Mr. Doyle said. "I think it's all pretty common-sense stuff."
Mr. Doyle wasn't in Congress in the early 1990s when a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines took effect.
But he was in Congress by the time the ban expired in 2004 and was among those who unsuccessfully attempted to keep it in place.
"To me, there's no civilian application for those weapons," he said.
While he acknowledged that some citizens believe the weapons are needed to defend themselves against the government, Mr. Doyle said, "that's just not acceptable."
Mr. Doyle said he also supported the president's proposals to adopt more sweeping background checks for gun purchasers, to increase access to mental health services and to seek confirmation of a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said senators have blocked the confirmation of any nominee who "isn't a card-carrying member of the NRA."
The president also proposed more school resource officers for the nation's schools.
Acknowledging that such positions in the past have been cut by cash-strapped school districts, Mr. Doyle said he'd be willing to work on a dedicated funding stream for resource officers.
Mr. Doyle said he'd like to think that other members would support him on that, but noted that nearly 200 Republican House members voted against Hurricane Sandy aid.
From the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler:
"Rep. Kelly is taking the time to thoughtfully consider the proposals offered by President Obama today as well as the concerns of the constituents of the 3rd District, including public safety officials and our region's many sportsmen and women. Rep. Kelly believes that a few of the proposals appear reasonable at face value, including efforts to strengthen our nation's mental health care system. However, Rep. Kelly firmly believes that we must protect our nation's most vulnerable citizens without preventing Americans from responsibly exercising their Second Amendment rights and he will fight against efforts to strip law-abiding citizens of these constitutionally protected and unalienable rights. Additionally, Rep. Kelly believes the President needs to be careful not to circumvent Congress on matters outside of his executive powers."
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, from a written statement:
"I strongly support President Obama's comprehensive plan to curb gun violence and help prevent senseless tragedies from happening in our neighborhoods. Like so many cities and communities throughout our nation, all of us have been deeply affected by gun violence. As a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, I, along with hundreds of mayors called on President Obama to put forth a common sense proposal that will protect our families by making it harder for guns to get in the hands of dangerous people. I am extremely pleased that the President's plan included all of the legislative proposals our Coalition called for, including requiring a background check for all gun sales, and banning military-style assault weapons."
The office of U.S. Rep Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, released the following statement quoting the congressman:
"I will carefully review and consider the task force's recommendations. It is critical that any legislation focuses on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals without restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."
First Published January 16, 2013 2:02 pm