by Brendan Sample

As part of an ongoing effort to promote discussion of local issues, State Sen. Art Haywood (District 4) will be hosting a town hall on gun violence at the Woodmere Art Museum on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. After hosting three town halls during the spring, Haywood wanted to make an effort to include Chestnut Hill in the fall.

Haywood’s main goal in holding town halls like this one is to provide residents an opportunity to discuss issues about which they are particularly concerned. Gun violence remains one of the most prevalent concerns in Philadelphia, and is particularly relevant across the country in the weeks following the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Though the timing suggests that the town hall may have been set up in response to the Las Vegas tragedy, Haywood confirmed that the focus, date and time were all established before the shooting occurred.

While there may be no definitive way of measuring the direct influence of a town hall, Haywood has considered the events to be successful so far due to the level of participation by residents of the district.

“There’s lot of appreciation for us having them since it gives people the opportunity to raise questions and be engaged,” Haywood said. “Those who attend are just glad we have them. It’s also another way for us to be accountable to citizens. Accountability isn’t just at the point of elections; it needs to be during the entire term of office.”

In addition to promoting discussions on gun violence in his district, Haywood has also been working in Harrisburg to push through safety measures on a statewide level. He has helped to sponsor events in the capital for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, held on June 2 every year, and has been active in working with CeaseFirePA to advocate for gun restrictions. Such potential restrictions could include requiring background checks on all gun purchases, something that is not currently required, and limiting gun purchases to one every month. He has also proposed handgun licensing legislation, similar to measures in states like Maryland and Connecticut, that would require individuals who want to purchase a handgun to have a license that would include a fingerprint.

The biggest challenge facing gun reform in Pennsylvania, in Haywood’s view, is not at the legislative level, but at that of mobilization. He feels that the influence of gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association need to be reduced in favor of groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. Despite the uphill battle that such a task would require, Haywood feels that the movement for increased gun safety is off to a good start.

“We’re going in a strong direction,” Haywood said. “I’m confident that we’ll be able to mobilize a force that will be able to compete for influence … It will be a long struggle, likely a decade or longer project, so we have to engage now.”

For more information on Senator Haywood, including times and dates for other upcoming town halls, visit senatorhaywood.com.

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

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