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Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg not likely to budge on push for gun control in Pennsylvania

Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg not likely to budge on push for gun control
Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg not likely to budge on push for gun control 03:06

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It happens after every one of these mass killings: Calls for more effective gun safety laws on both the national and state levels.

KDKA political editor Jon Delano spoke with area lawmakers on Wednesday to see if those strongly opposed to gun control legislation changed their minds.

With both the state House and Senate in Harrisburg controlled by Republicans, gun control bills in this state almost never make it out of committee for a vote.

"I'm a passionate believer in the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 21, of the Pennsylvania Constitution that says, 'The right to bear arms shall not be questioned,'" says Aaron Bernstine, a Republican from New Beaver.

Bernstine, who has a bill to let Pennsylvanians carry a concealed firearm without a permit, says the lesson from the Texas school mass killings is not more gun regulation but stronger prosecutions.

"There should be extreme, extreme penalties for those who commit crimes with a firearm," says Bernstine.

This is a common refrain from local lawmakers opposed to gun control bills.

"We've got well over 130 gun laws on the books that we should be following," says state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, a Carroll Republican. "We should be enforcing the laws that we have on the books, and we aren't following all of them."

Bartolotta cites Philadelphia where, she says, criminals using firearms are left off the hook. Instead of gun control, she supports more state dollars to strengthen all schools from intruders.

"In my district alone, you cannot get into any one of our schools without going through two doorways. You can't just walk in off the street," she said.

State Rep. Dan Frankel, a Democrat whose district includes the Tree of Life Synagogue, says stronger gun safety laws have become a partisan issue as Republicans are beholden to the National Rifle Association.

"Many of my Republican colleagues are enthralled with the NRA and other gun advocacy groups, and they have been very effective," says Frankel.

Delano: Is the Pennsylvania Legislature controlled by the National Rifle Association?

Bartolotta: Not at all. We are controlled by the Constitution of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States.

Bernstine: The constituents, my 65,000 bosses, control me and are my boss. I don't answer to individual groups.

Bernstine is right about the final boss. 

If voters want universal background checks in Pennsylvania, mandatory safe storage of firearms, reporting of lost and stolen guns, and so-called red flag laws to remove guns from those a danger to themselves or others, then voters must elect lawmakers who feel the same way.  

So far, voters in this state have not done that.  

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