Moms and supporters advocate for increased gun safety laws

With the help of local police, gun safety reform supporters marched along Delaware Avenue, across Brown Street and up N. 3rd Street from Penn Treaty Park to Liberty Lands Park in Northern Liberties.

Moms Demand Action activists from around the Philadelphia region gathered in Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park Saturday morning for Wear Orange Day to demonstrate their support for increased gun safety reforms. With the help of local police, they marched along Delaware Avenue, across Brown Street and up North 3rd Street from Penn Treaty Park to Liberty Lands Park in Northern Liberties.

As they marched toward Liberty Lands Park decked out in orange clothing, they yelled a variety of chants, including “Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go,” “Show me what democracy looks like — this is what democracy looks like” and “What do we want? Gun Sense. When do we want it? Now.”

Rebecca Luzi, the state communication lead for Moms Demand Action, said the group’s current focus is to get the State House of Representatives to pass SB-501, a bill that would close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to own guns.

“It would take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers,” Luzi told the Star at the march, “There are currently so many loopholes in PA laws that allow domestic abusers to keep their guns and this would close those loopholes only after a period of adjudication.”

Luzi added those involved would have to go through a court process, but then a convicted abuser would have to turn over his guns.

The bill already passed unanimously in the State Senate, and if it passes in the House it is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The House vote could happen as soon as later this month.

The passing of the bill in the Senate, Luzi said, is a sign that progress is being made on gun safety reform, at least at the state level.

“At the state level, Moms Demand Action and other gun violence protection organizations have gained a lot of traction, we’ve attracted a lot of attention and we’ve achieved a lot of success in state legislatures and domestic violence is one of our big issues,” Luzi said.

Luzi said that SB-501 is the organization’s “current focus,” but it also advocates for stronger background checks, including closing something called the “long gun loophole,” which, in Pennsylvania, is a loophole that allows people to purchase rifles and other “long guns” without a background check from unlicensed dealers, which, for instance, could be a person selling a gun on Craigslist.

Also at the march was Julia Spoor, who is both a co-founder of student-based gun safety organization Students Demand Action and a sophomore at Jenkintown High School.

Julia Spoor

“We really just think that it’s very important to emphasize how important our youth voices are in this movement,” said Spoor, who lost her father to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “We want lawmakers to know for sure that we are listening and we are watching them and if they’re not willing to stand up for us, then we will for ourselves.”

Spoor was recently profiled in the most recent issue of People magazine for her involvement with Students Demand Action.

“As a student, it’s not right that I walk into a classroom and wonder where I should go in case of a shelter in place drill, in case there’s an active shooter in the school,” she said. “It’s not something that anyone should become accustomed to.”

The march was also attended by State Sen. Art Haywood.

“”I’ve been supporting Moms Demand Action since I became aware of the organization back in 2014, and I think it’s critical that we try to address the gun violence epidemic,” Haywood told the Star. “I know people who are friends of mine that have lost relatives. Many people here share stories of their lost relatives and being survivors and this is a case where we can make some changes to save lives.”

Haywood said he feels progress is being made on a state level, as evidenced by the bill recently passed by the State Senate. He said that students such as Spoor and survivors of the Parkland shooting helped make the progress happen. He said he has “a long list of legislation I want to see passed,” but felt it was important to take an incremental approach.

“I think there’s a good chance that [SB-501] will be passed this year,” Haywood said. “I think it’s critical that we look at this like it’s a marathon. With some progress in 2018, we can build on that in 2019. So we may get to assault weapons in 2019, but to think that we can do it all at once is a mistake.”

Haywood encouraged those interested in gun safety reform to join an organization such as Cease Fire or Moms Demand Action.

“The №1 thing that I always recommend people do is join an organization that is fighting for gun safety,” he said. “Be part of a broader effort to produce the change. I do not think that individuals one at a time can cause the legislature to change their behavior. It takes a statewide, highly organized effort to get it done. That is what Moms Demand Action is, that is what CeaseFire PA is, so join one of those organizations.”