Think Pa.’s gun laws would have blocked Jared Loughner’s purchases? Think again.
That stance doesn’t sit very well with Horwitz. “The mental-health profession has been saying that kind of thing for years, but it’s about time they changed their tune because it’s really unconscionable to say that people with serious mental illness should be able to have a gun without any kind of background check.
“I don’t think every mentally ill person is a danger, but those that are should not be able to get guns, and there are many people who are dangerous who have not gotten to the level of involuntary commitment.”
So the question now becomes, will Harrisburg consider legislation that would expand our current gun laws regarding mental-health evaluations? State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) thinks it’s time to try again, even with the arrival of the gun-friendly Corbett administration.
“It’s important to have the most extensive background check that we possibly can,” Farnese says. I’m not talking about making someone wait six months—we’re talking about maybe a couple more days. The problem is, when you want to go and make the application or evaluation process a little more involved, you get a lot of pushback from the NRA and other groups like that.”
“We don’t have to make wholesale changes, and I’m not trying to take people’s guns away,” he says. “There are common-sense rules that can be implemented that will protect the public safety, which is the first duty of government, and still not violate people’s Second Amendment rights or discriminate against a particular group of society.”
Goldsmith hopes that a reasonable compromise can be hammered out in time to help Pennsylvania better combat its own Jared Loughners. “Society is all about taking competing interests and finding the right balance. A lot of these massacres are from people who have mental illnesses. Obviously you want to protect the rights of people with mental illness, but you also want to protect people from people who have mental illness. I think we have a little more work to do in Pennsylvania to find that right balance.” ■