Pennsylvania lawmakers voted on Jan. 17 to advance five gun safety bills to a full floor vote in the state House of Representatives.
In a series of party-line votes during a hearing on Monday, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee gave the green light to the set of bills that would ban multi-burst trigger activators, future assault weapons sales and ghost gun parts.
The committee also approved bills that would add 3D-printed guns to existing weapons regulations and shorten the amount of time judges have to notify state police about individuals subject to mental health adjudication, commitment or treatment that prohibits them from owning a firearm. Currently, judges have seven days to send this information to state police, which would then conduct a background check if such an individual were to attempt to purchase a gun; the bill would lower that window to between 72 and 96 hours after the adjudication.
The hearing was marked by partisan debate as Democrats made the case for enacting legislation to curb gun violence in the commonwealth and Republicans continued to assert that the bills infringe upon Pennsylvanians’ personal freedoms.
Democratic Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia argued that House Bill 777, the bill banning possession of ghost gun parts — that is, parts that can be used to assemble unregistered firearms — would close a loophole in Pennsylvania gun safety regulations.
“Folks can own the individual components, but it doesn’t become illegal until they put them together,” Kenyatta said. “But we know why people own Legos, they want to put them together. We know why people get these components, they want to put them together. And they want to come in our communities and commit crime.”
Republican Rep. Robert Leadbeter, who represents a district in northeastern Pennsylvania, said the bill was full of what he called significant fallacies: “Americans have always had the ability to legally make firearms on their own, and some choose to do so as a hobby. It has not created a wave of self- or privately assembled firearms.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro has indicated support for gun safety legislation in the past, but it’s unclear if or when the bills will make it to his desk.
Democrats held a one-seat majority in the House until December, when the resignation of Democratic Rep. John Galloway left the chamber deadlocked. Galloway last won reelection to the 140th House District with 60% of the vote in 2020. He ran unopposed in the Democratic-leaning district in 2022. Republican Falls Township resident Candace Cabanas and Democratic Pennsbury School Board Member Jim Prokopiak will face off in a special election to replace Galloway on Feb. 13.
Even if the bills pass in the House, Republicans hold a majority in the state Senate, where the bills may not even be brought up for a vote and face slim chances of passing. Senate Republicans have failed to schedule votes on several bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House in recent months.