Gov. Wolf Signs Executive Order Targeting Gun Violence
Following recent mass shootings across the country, including a standoff in Philadelphia that injured 6 police officers, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is taking matters into his own hands. Friday morning, he signed an executive order that he says will better target the gun violence crisis. In what many are calling unprecedented action, Governor Wolf’s executive order establishes new agencies and programs to combat gun violence in the Commonwealth.
“Too many live every day in fear of being shot on the sidewalk in their neighborhood, in a grocery store, at school, or at a concert. We need to protect all of our lives, everywhere in Pennsylvania,” says Governor Wolf.
The executive order establishes the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which includes a Special Council on Gun Violence. The Council is comprised of representatives from several existing committees, a lawmaker from each Caucus, and several members from the Governor’s Cabinet. The group is charged with tackling gun violence by looking at it from gun safety and public health perspectives. It’s Chaired by Charles Ramsey, who currently leads the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Ramsey says he looks forward to coming up with recommendations to cut down on gun violence.
“If we wait around for the Federal Government to do it, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Doing it here, Pennsylvania. We can be a model for the rest of the country, and we will be the model for the rest of the country,” Ramsey explains.
Another office created by this executive order is the Division of Violence Prevention within the Department of Health. This office will work with the Gun Violence Prevention office to work on new oversight and data sharing methods. The groups will look to reduce community gun violence by expanding State Police Gun Buyback programs, and increase police training on gun violence prevention.
Additionally, the Governor’s executive order plans to combat mass shootings by charging the Pennsylvania State Police to expand their monitoring of hate groups, white nationalists, and domestic terrorists. The PSP is expand and increase awareness of the “See Something, Send Something” program. This allows anyone to send a text to a hotline if they see anything suspicious regarding a possible mass shooting plan or other gun violence.
Finally, Governor Wolf looking to stop domestic violence and self harm shootings by building on mental health campaigns and increasing awareness of services. He’s also directing the Suicide Prevention Task Force to make recommendations on how the state can reduce suicides, specifically by gun.
“We want a good Pennsylvania for everybody. One that recognizes the rights embedded in the second amendment, but also one that recognizes our rights to live free of fear, Governor Wolf explains.
This Executive Order was going to be signed Thursday morning in Harrisburg. But after a shooting Wednesday night in Philadelphia during a standoff, the Governor postponed the signing to Friday. Representative Jordan Harris is a Democrat that served the 186th Legislative District, which is part of Philadelphia County. In an emotional call to action, Rep. Harris says in Philadelphia alone, there have been eight mass shootings. A mass shooting is defined as four or more people shot in one incident. Rep. Harris says the time to act is now.
“Time is out for the talk. We have to do action, and we have to do it now, and I’m so thankful that it starts with our Governor,” says Rep. Jordan Harris, (D-Philadelphia).
Many lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, and gun control activists filled the Governor’s reception room Friday morning as the Governor prepared to sign the his executive order. House Minority Leader Jay Costa, Representative Dan Frankel, and Rep. Harris all delivered remarks. One Senator, who has constantly pushed for gun reform, especially lately, provided his input as well. Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) says this issue impacts everyone.
“Understand that this message is not about taking your gun, this is about preserving a life. This is not a Democrat nor Republican perspective, this is not an urban nor rural perspective, this is not a black or white, this is about death. Death in a country, that is the greatest country in the world, that we irresponsibly have not acted upon,” Williams explains.
Governor Wolf says these steps alone will not end gun violence. He is also directing the General Assembly to pass safe storage legislation, the red flag law, and universal background checks.