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Gun control stalled after Tree of Life shooting

Plus, poll shows many Pennsylvanians support armed security in public schools.

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Friday, October 27, 2023
In today's edition: Calls for change, slim results, court case, monitored waters, extra protection, and marijuana feedback. Thanks for reading.

Five years after a gunman killed 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, calls for the Pennsylvania legislature to expand the state’s hate crimes and gun control laws have seen little movement. 

The General Assembly did agree to establish grant funding to boost security at nonprofit organizations that serve marginalized communities. But other policy proposals have failed to receive enough bipartisan support to reach the governor's desk.

“Politically, having done this for 25 years, I recognize how difficult it is,” state Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny), whose district includes the Tree of Life synagogue, told Spotlight PA.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: The Tree of Life shooting led to pushes for stricter gun and hate crime laws in PA. Five years later, little has passed.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso reports:

Pennsylvania last enacted tighter laws for firearms in 2018, when the GOP-controlled General Assembly passed a measure making it easier to take guns away from domestic abusers in the face of determined opposition by gun rights groups. 

The state House is now controlled by Democrats, who passed two gun control bills earlier this year. One would require long gun sales to entail background checks, which current state law mandates only for handguns. The other would allow law enforcement or family to petition a judge to temporarily take away an individual's firearms if it appears they may harm themselves or others.

The bills have awaited consideration in the state Senate Judiciary Committee since this spring, and leadership has not committed to bring them up for a vote."


"I’ve always said we can’t change what happened, that we have to move forward and enjoy every day and that’s what my mother would have wanted. She’s watching down and seeing all the joy."

Tree of Life synagogue shooting survivor Andrea Wedner on her mother Rose Mallinger, who was one of the victims killed.
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» VOTER READY: Join us Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6-7 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on voting rights in Pennsylvania, important dates and deadlines, and answers to your remaining Election Day questions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

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Beautiful fall colors at Willows Park in Villanova, via Elliott C. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

dozens of big trees with fall foliage and the blue sky reflected in a large lake
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.LONELIEST NUMBER: A publicly funded initiative that pays out-of-area workers to temporarily live in the Pennsylvania Wilds with the goal of them becoming permanent residents is looking inward as it enters its third year. Despite the tens of thousands of dollars spent since its launch last year, just one participant out of 20 has moved to the rural region with their family, Spotlight PA’s State College Bureau reports.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.STILL WAITING: One year after a critical case involving Medicaid and abortion was argued in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a ruling is still pending, WESA reports. The decision will determine whether Medicaid dollars can be used to cover abortion care in all instances rather than just in cases of rape, incest, or to prevent the death of a pregnant person. 

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.‘FOREVER CHEMICALS’: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said it will set a safety threshold for the amount of PFAS, chemicals that can cause health risks, found in surface waters, The Bay Journal reports. An environmental advocate said these thresholds make it easier for states to permit polluting facilities and penalize the ones that contaminate waterways.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.ARMED SECURITY: A new poll shows overwhelming support among Pennsylvanians to have an armed security officer in every public school, PennLive reports. The state Senate Education Committee approved a bill this week that would essentially mandate just that during school hours. Schools would be allowed to determine whether to have such security present at extracurricular activities. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CANNABIS CONSIDERATION: A state House subcommittee will hold a meeting next week to hear testimony as Pennsylvania considers adult-use marijuana legalization, Marijuana Moment reports. State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny), who previously sponsored a cannabis legalization bill, said he plans to introduce a “quite different” version next year that is informed by the hearing. 
🏆 TEST YOURSELF: Another busy week of Pennsylvania news is coming to an end. See how closely you were paying attention with the latest Great PA News Quiz: Unforgiven taxes, Biden billion, House speaker, and tech tort.

BASIC TRANSPARENCY: Spotlight PA has formally asked Penn State’s Board of Trustees to stop meeting privately to discuss public matters

DRINK LAWSUIT: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is “gathering information” about a University of Pennsylvania student who died after allegedly drinking a caffeinated beverage from Panera Bread.

EDITORIAL FAREWELL: A McKees Rocks newspaper announced the end of its operations on Thursday. Gazette 2.0 will hold a funeral wake on Nov. 2. 

PRIMARY TIME: The Pennsylvania Jewish Legislative Caucus is “very disappointed” that state lawmakers could not agree to move the date of the 2024 presidential primary. The April 23 election conflicts with Passover.  

LATE START: A Pennsylvania lawmaker is pushing a bill that would require schools’ start time to begin no earlier than 8:15 a.m., ABC27 reports. The change would go into effect in 2026. 

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