Bucks County Residents Want State Senator Frank Farry to Become a Bipartisan Leader Against Gun Violence

A “Not One More Day” vigil to end gun violence will take place Friday at noon in front of Farry's Langhorne office.
Photo courtesy of @PaSenateDems.

Bucks County resident Lynne Waymon didn’t need a mass shooting in Nevada this week to move her to action about gun violence. The retired schoolteacher from Newtown had already worked with other individuals and organizations to plan a vigil in front of State Senator Frank Farry’s office Friday.

Working with organizers from RAC-PA, Red, Wine and Blue, the League of Women Voters, and CeaseFirePA, she and other organizers hope to make a public statement to their moderate senator who has shown a willingness to vote for gun safety legislation in the past. Waymon doesn’t think it’s a lot to ask for her fellow Bucks County residents – elected officials or otherwise – to stand up for better gun safety. 

“We are looking for people to come join us for a short time to acknowledge the nineteen hundred Pennsylvanians who have died by gun violence,” she said.

The Bucks County vigil is just one of a half dozen planned around the commonwealth this week. The reason for the flurry of activity when most people are planning for the holidays? Brandon Flood, executive director of CeaseFirePA, explained that the PA House passed two “common sense” bills back in May and the Senate has failed to vote on either of them.

One (HB714) provides for universal background checks – regardless of the manner of sale. Under current law private sales and transfers are exempt. And the other (HB1018) allows for extreme risk protection orders. Flood points to the number of suicides with a fire arm this year – more than 900 – and finds it reasonable for family members and other concerned citizens to act. 

“If it’s a credible threat, you want that person’s firearm. HB1018 doesn’t just let just anyone take a weapon, a judge has to approve it,” said Flood.

Opponents to the bill claim that Pennsylvania already has a mechanism to intervene with a person who has serious mental health issues. Flood has pushed back, explaining that violent offenders are not routinely mentally ill. 

“Four to six percent of folks are mentally ill. Being severely mentally unstable is a much higher bar than we need. Not everyone who is angry is mentally ill,” he said. “We have a commonsense agenda [including] a process for removing a firearm. We want safe storage, reporting of lost or stolen firearms. We’re pushing for anti-crime legislation. No ghost guns, no 3D printed guns, no machine gun conversions.”

As for Friday’s vigil, Flood continues, “We hope to send a message to Senator Farry – the vast majority of his district sees these bills as being practical and much needed. As a gun owner, I assure you these bills are in no way going to infringe on sensible gun ownership.”

image 2 - Bucks County Beacon - Bucks County Residents Want State Senator Frank Farry to Become a Bipartisan Leader Against Gun Violence

Citing 2022 polling data, CeaseFirePA Bucks and Montgomery County Organizer Sarah Jones – who is working with Waymon and the others – echoes Flood’s statement. She’s hoping their action will remind the senator that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support these initiatives.

“Our best argument is the numbers. When it comes to gun violence, the majority is for reform, but it’s a quiet majority,” said Jones. “We have to show Senator Farry that this is an issue people will come out for and say, ‘we really need your leadership on this.’ What we’re trying to do for those senators that are in the majority… we want to be really visible for them.”

Technically, whether the bills are heard in the higher chamber isn’t Senator Farry’s call. Farry isn’t on the Judiciary committee – and the Judiciary committee hasn’t released the bills to the full chamber for a vote. The chair of that committee is State Senator Lisa Baker. Waymon, Jones, Flood and the other organizers hope that Farry will influence Baker.

Waymon put it plainly, “The Senate Judiciary chair has been sitting on these bills for 199 days. It’ll be 200 the day of the vigil. I’m really worried about the Pennsylvania legislature. How do we convince them that these bills will make a difference?”

Waymon worries that the Republicans in the senate are headed in the wrong direction. 

“Instead, the senate is considering SB907. They insist having armed security guards in schools is the answer. That’s not the answer,” he said. “The science shows that more guns mean more deaths. I agree with [Governor] Shapiro, it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Jones believes visibility is the key and veers away from party politics. “We really believe in Pennsylvania this is a bipartisan issue – not a theoretical issue.” Jones also points out that statistically gun deaths are as big a problem in PA’s red districts as they are in the blue districts. “We lose thousands of Pennsylvanians to gun violence each year. There’s a narrative that gun violence only happens in urban areas. But two-thirds of the firearm suicides are in rural areas. With this legislation [HB1018], we’re basically trying to give family members more time to intervene when someone is in crisis. The biggest risk factor for suicide is having a gun in the home.”

Jones grieves senate inactivity, “The longer they wait the more people are dying. Something that could be prevented – people are dying preventable deaths. The two bills sitting in the senate, I believe will pass with bipartisan support,” if the judiciary would just release them for a vote. “And Bucks county’s support for gun legislation has been bipartisan. Republican representatives in Farry’s district have voted to support these bills. We are hopeful he’ll become a leader on this issue.”

Republican representatives Kristin Marcell and Kathleen Tomlinson voted for the universal background check legislation and Tomlinson voted for the extreme risk protection orders as well.

When asked about the likelihood that federal legislation proposed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and others in the U.S. Senate will eliminate the need for Pennsylvania to pass similar laws, Jones replied, “Passing these bills in the Pennsylvania legislature is something we want to move forward with regardless of federal action. We can’t be sure what will happen on the federal level, or if – later on – it will be undone.” 

The “Not One More Day” vigil to end gun violence will take place at noon, Friday, December 8, in front of State Senator Frank Farry’s office at 370 East Maple Avenue in Langhorne, Suite 203.

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Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is a freelance journalist and author. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband. Pat has written nine books on poverty and homelessness.

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