Welcome to our special edition of the CeaseFirePA Newsletter, recounting all the powerful accomplishments of our day of advocacy in Harrisburg. 1,296 days have passed since the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed meaningful legislation to combat the gun violence crisis. Look at what has happened since then.
The last time lawmakers took any action was
Governor Wolf signed Act 79 into law, requiring those convicted of domestic abuse or those issued a final protection order to relinquish guns to law enforcement within 24 hours, unless given special permission from a judge.
Before this law was passed, domestic abusers had 60 days to give up their firearm, and they could give their gun to a friend or family member instead of actually handing it over to law enforcement.
CeaseFirePA was proud to work to get this passed with a broad coalition of partners.
During this same year, we defended gun legislation in court, in partnership with two mothers who lost their children to gun violence. We also were thrilled to see Auditor General DePasquale make CeaseFirePA policy recommendations in a statewide report on the gun violence crisis facing all Pennsylvanians.
Let's go back to present day.
CeaseFirePA's massive statewide network of advocates mobilized for their first in-person Advocacy Day in three years.
Our powerful community of advocates and survivors couldn’t wait through weeks and months and years of political stalemate, so we mobilized ourselves and headed to the state capitol from all over the Commonwealth. With every single day that passes, blood is being shed. We had to take action, for the survival of our neighborhoods and families.
CeaseFirePA held 7 virtual training sessions over the month leading up to Advocacy Day to help participants be prepared to lobby their lawmakers and be best positioned to have maximum impact. Attendees got a quick crash course on the policy "asks" for legislators to understand how the legislation and investments we are advocating for will help reduce gun violence. We also learned the best practices on how to have a successful lobbying meeting. And finally, training attendees got a chance to introduce themselves to other CeaseFirePA supporters, learn about what drew them to get involved in the movement, and see firsthand how CeaseFirePA supporters come from every corner of PA and represent a range of ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
A whole crew of folks traveled from Delaware County, with Southeastern PA Coordinator Carol Lastowka. This bus included survivors, activists, advocates, and grandmothers seeking policy change to keep our communities safe from harm.
Before the sun had risen into the sky on Tuesday morning, we departed from communities all over the Commonwealth, eager to speak with our elected leaders about the crisis killing our family, friends, and neighbors. We had policy solutions in hand, along with our coffee, and we just needed elected leaders to listen to us.
Michael Wilson was the very first to arrive for the bus in the morning. He dreams of a future in which future generations won’t even know what gun violence is.
Cheryl Pedro, whose son was murdered in 2015, took the bus from North Philadelphia to lobby for gun violence reform in Harrisburg.
Finally, we arrived!
A sea of orange took over the Capitol, ready to meet with legislators, share stories of struggle, and advance positive changes for all Pennsylvanians.
Meetings with Legislators
In a sea of orange, advocates traveled all over the Capitol Building, taking meetings with legislators on both sides of the aisle. They shared stories of gun violence in their communities and advocated for the CeaseFirePA Common Agenda to End Gun Violence. In addition, they pushed lawmakers to advance an $80 million investment to continue grants to local organizations and projects disrupting gun violence at its root causes. To date, CeaseFirePA has partnered with other advocacy organizations and legislators to secure $45 million in funds for these initiatives.
To date, we’ve acquired twelve new co-sponsors for legislation that would reduce gun violence and save lives. We had 60+ meetings all over the Capitol, earned media from all over the Commonwealth, and most important of all, shared our stories of survival and built strategy for the weeks and months ahead. At least 203 advocates from around the Commonwealth used their power for change.
We wanted to share with you just a few of the statements shared with us by attendees:
Bonnie Coll of Upper Dublin:
“I found the event on the steps to be very effective, powerful, and touching, and I was very pleased to hear from people like (Rep.) Ben Sanchez and the Governor and certainly the moms who had lost children. They certainly drove home the point that this is an important struggle we have to deal with…”
“Today was very empowering. My students got the opportunity to advocate for legislation that they want to see come out of committee, and be put into law….my students live with gun violence every day, and many of them are survivors of it. This was an opportunity for them to fight back and advocate for the change that they are seeking. They learned so much. It was empowering. My students left better than they came. I’m proud of them and the work that CeaseFirePA is doing.”
Marty Beilin, Cheltenham Township:
“It was very inspiring to see so many ordinary citizens from all parts of Pennsylvania come to Harrisburg and advocate for common sense gun reform. Even in these polarized times, I believe we made a positive impact, if not overwhelmingly, at least at the important margins of the debate.”
Karen Lane, Pittsburgh:
“I’m glad I came out with CeaseFirePA because we need to put out the fires. It’s burning all over the country…violence. We need to stop it from happening because we are killing one another when we allow those fires to burn. I came out so that I could voice my opinion about what is going on in our communities and how it has affected us. It has affected me a lot. My son has been shot, my brother was shot, my niece was shot, I’ve lost people to gun violence, and it is still going on in our communities. Kids are getting guns they shouldn’t even have. They should just be kids, running around just trying to figure out who they are, but they have so much coming at them at once. We need y’all to pass these bills for the goodness of our children because we won’t have children to bring up or to take care of us when we get old. I’m glad I came out to Harrisburg, and I will show up again to get people to notice that we need to change the laws to make a difference in each other’s lives. If we don’t do things in the way God wants us to, we’re burning away our future.”
We know from the stories of mothers shared in the rain, we must move faster if we’re going to save lives.
We have a plan.
STEP 1: Win funding for community violence prevention program: In two months we’ll know how many resources are available for community organizations to interrupt violence. The right investment could set us on the path to cutting shootings by 30%. The wrong could stop lifesaving programs in their tracks.
STEP 2: We need to get these legislative solutions out of committees and onto the floor for a vote, where they belong. We gained twelve new co-sponsors for proposals in just one day of lobbying, but we have so much further to go if we’re going to save lives.
We thank you for your continued support of this movement. Our orange wave will continue its advocacy until Pennsylvanians can live a life without gun violence.