Gov. Tom Wolf's executive order to reduce gun violence: What we know
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. A gunman, identified as Maurice Hill, wounded six police officers before surrendering early Thursday, after a 7 ½-hour standoff. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ordered his administration to begin nearly two dozen new initiatives and reforms aimed at reducing gun violence.
Under the plan, a new council on gun violence will be created to recommend specific policies. The council is required to meet within 60 days, and then to come up with those recommendations within 180 days of its first meeting.
The council will be comprised of representatives from advisory committees within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, a representative from each of the four legislative caucuses of the General Assembly, the leaders of multiple state agencies and offices, and a member appointed by the governor.
Before making recommendations, the council is instructed to hear from gun owners, health care professionals, and victims of gun violence, according to Wolf’s office.
“He has authority to structure the executive branch in a way that’s responsive to the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania,” Wolf’s press secretary, J.J. Abbott, said in advance of the signing. “So he’s using that authority.”
In announcing the executive order, Wolf pointed to the number of gun deaths in Pennsylvania: More than 1,600 in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state’s age-adjusted gun death rate was 12.5 per 100,000 people in 2017 — higher than the national rate of 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
Neighboring New York had one of the lowest rates the same year- 3.7 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. Alaska’s rate was the highest: 24.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
A police officer stands guard at the scene of Wednesday’s hourslong standoff in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. The gunman, identified as Maurice Hill, wounded six police officers before surrendering early Thursday, after a 7 ½-hour standoff. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis is covering the signing at the state Capitol and will have more details on the plan and reaction to it.
The order also calls for increased oversight and data sharing through a number of steps:
- the creation of an Office of Gun Violence Prevention to focus on the issue;
- directing all departments to combat systemic causes of violence, including poverty, economic opportunities, mental and behavioral health.
- creating a Violence Data Dashboard with the goal of providing a better understanding of the scope, frequency, geography, and populations affected by violence.
To target gun violence at the community level, Wolf’s plan calls for expanding and supporting gun buyback programs through the Pennsylvania State Police and municipal police departments.
It also directs state police and Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission to develop training on community gun violence prevention and focused deterrence.
And the plan says the Wolf administration will partner with courts to increase the use of juvenile justice programs that have a proven track-record of reducing violent crimes.
To confront the problem of mass shootings, Wolf’s plan:
- tells state police to expand its monitoring of hate groups, white nationalists, both online and in-person.
- enrolls Pennsylvania in the “States for Gun Safety” coalition, a multi-state partnership that shares information related to gun violence.
- expands programs aimed at helping first responders and regular people spot warning signs for mass shootings.
The plan also directs the Suicide Prevention Task Force, which Wolf created in May, to make immediate recommendations on steps to reduce suicides by gun. It also calls for a Suicide Death Review Team, charged with increasing data collection and assisting prevention efforts and policy decisions.
The Democratic governor supports increased gun restrictions, including expanded background checks, safe storage requirements and the creation of extreme risk protection orders.
But Friday’s executive order focuses on areas to prevent gun violence within the executive branch.