Pennsbury School District’s Nicole Peirce, an educator of 29 years at the elementary level, is heartbroken over the choices her students must make regarding backpacks. Their decision was once simple – should it be Disney or Dora the Explorer? Now, families must consider whether or not a bulletproof option is the way to go.
Peirce was one of several speakers at a recent press conference hosted by state Sen. Steve Santarsiero in Lower Makefield. The senator is introducing a bill that would ban military-style assault weapons in Pennsylvania, just like the AR-15 used to kill 19 elementary schoolers and two teachers in Uvalde.
The legislation would broaden the scope of what the state clarifies as assault weapons, banning more than 150 gun models. It would also ban the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds and provide for a voluntary buy-back program for individuals that currently own firearms that would no longer be permitted.
“Military-style weapons have no place in civilian society,” said Santarsiero. “Easy access to assault weapons is one of the greatest threats to the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.”
A striking fact was provided by Peirce – students have lived under the shadow of gun violence their entire lives. High school seniors were in second grade when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, in middle school for Parkland and, days from graduation, they saw it again with Uvalde. Meanwhile, Peirce’s loved ones fear they’ll never see her again when she leaves for work.
“My job comes with keeping an eye out for escape routes in case of an attack, and keeping handy classroom items like staplers and scissors that I can use for defense if my school becomes the next target,” she said. “Students deserve to be safe coming to school and we as educators deserve to be safe coming to work. The time to act is now.”
Currently, Pennsylvania has no limits regarding the types of weapons a person may possess. In fact, both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are legal to own in the commonwealth.
“With each passing day that we fail to enact reasonable gun reforms, we are choosing to protect the gun lobby and firearm manufacturers over the lives of all Pennsylvanians,” said Santarsiero. “Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Pennsylvania has taken no meaningful action to keep our children safe with reasonable gun safety measures. That must change.”
Santarsiero’s legislation is modeled after a law that was enacted in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s considered to be one of the toughest in the nation.
Rep. Dan Frankel, who co-chairs the PA Safe Caucus with Santarsiero and Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, voiced his support for the bill: “More than three years ago, 11 of my friends and neighbors were murdered in an anti-Semitic attack as they worshipped in the Tree of Life building. We will never know how many of their lives would have been saved if this legislation had been in place, but we can take action now to prevent other communities from suffering as mine has. A firearm designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, has no place on the streets of Pennsylvania.”
Adam Garber, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun violence prevention group, also voiced his support: “Weapons of war have no place where we shop, eat, learn and pray. That simple fact has been painfully obvious in the last few weeks in Buffalo and Uvalde. Now, it’s time for our elected officials to take action to stop our communities from being war zones by banning assault weapons.”
Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy, said, “We applaud Sen. Santarsiero and the other Pennsylvania legislators who are taking action by introducing and supporting common sense legislation that will protect the safety and lives of children, as well as second amendment rights. We encourage their colleagues in the state Senate and House to follow their lead and pass the legislation immediately.”
State Sen. Maria Collett added, “Reducing gun violence in our communities is not an insurmountable task. No parent should send their child to school wondering if it may be the last time they see them. Restricting assault weapons commonly used in mass shootings, including the recent massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, is a logical step forward for Pennsylvania.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org