Leaders talk gun violence, background checks at Montco rally
"In the hour we have scheduled for this press conference and questions, four or five more of our fellow citizens will be gone, another 15 will be wounded."
That was just part of the message Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist., had about the issue of gun violence and the need for background checks.
Dean, along with several Democratic state and county officials, came together with supporters on the Montgomery County Courthouse steps Friday to discuss the issue and urge the use of background checks for gun owners through H.R.8.
The bill, sponsored by California Congressman Michael Thompson seeks to require universal background checks for all firearm sales.
"We just passed a bill written by my colleague and friend Mike Thompson, H.R. 8. It says something very simple — If you want to buy a gun in America, you have to pass a background check. It sounds obvious. I agree it is," said Dean. "We also passed a bill the very next day and that one closed the Charleston Loophole."
The Charleston Loophole refers to the process in which a person is automatically cleared to purchase a firearm if a background check is not completed before the three-day deadline. It was named in reference to the 2015 Charleston church shooting after it was noted that accused shooter Dylann Roof obtained the firearm used to carry out the shooting in that way.
Dean was joined by Rep. Thompson, Montgomery County Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence, CeaseFirePA Executive Director Shira Goodman, and Movita Johnson-Harrell, state representative and founder of the CHARLES Foundation.
Attending in the crowd were state Reps. Joe Webster, Ben Sanchez and Mary Jo Daley, state Sens. Katie Muth and Maria Collett and Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny.
The group also included Norristown Area High School students as well as student activist Julia Spoor, 17, of Jenkintown, who along with others, founded Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Spoor spoke about her personal experience with gun violence in her family and why she is outspoken about the issue.
"When my father committed gun suicide 10 days before my eighth birthday, I changed forever. The thought that kept going through my head was 'I don't want anyone else to feel this way. I don't want any other children to lose their parents this way.' So that's what I'm fighting for," said Spoor.
The crowd also heard from county and state leaders, some of whom also had personal experiences with gun violence.
"On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, my father was murdered in front of my family. Something that no child should have to live with is the loss of a parent due to gun violence," said State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell. "And many many years later as I worked to protect my children, I was always very hyper-vigilant about violence. I fought for my children. On January 15, 2008, I left Philadelphia to protect my children from gun violence. On January 13, 2008, my 18-year-old son, Charles Andre Johnson was murdered in a case of mistaken identity."
Supporters also heard from several speakers about the bill and how to contact representatives in order to pass the legislation.
"We've got to be honest with ourselves. America in particular has an enormous, awful gun violence problem and it's time we got our hearts and our heads and our legislation around that fact," said Dean.