PA gun control law deserves support
As the nation has suffered several horrific mass shootings this year, we have all been looking for ways to prevent future tragedies. With action at the federal level unlikely, state legislation offers a more viable path to decreasing gun violence. Senate Bill 501, introduced by State Sen. Thomas Killion (R-Chester), will reduce gun violence by restricting domestic abusers’ access to firearms.
Currently, domestic abusers have 60 days after conviction to surrender weapons, and they can give them to friends or family. This still leaves too much latitude for domestic abusers to use guns for violence. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, from 2007-2016 there were 598 domestic violence murders in the state involving firearms, 54 percent of the total.
SB 501 will require anyone under a protection from abuse order or convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence related charge to surrender weapons within 24 hours to law enforcement or a firearms dealer, not third parties. This will make it more difficult for domestic abusers to access guns.
Senate Democrats and Republicans support this bill, as well as Governor Wolf. Polling sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety shows that 75 percent of both Democratic and Republican Pennsylvanians support such a law. SB 501 offers a feasible way to decrease gun violence in our state. I encourage readers to contact their state representatives to urge them to support this bill.
20 years in, deer cull still carried out in the dark
I expect the annual mass slaughter of deer in Wissahickon Valley Park to begin again very soon. This winter will mark 20 years of unspeakable violence.
This never-ending deer killing program is being called a “success.” Recovery of the forest vegetation is evident, so they say. Its so-called success is measured in anecdotes and hearsay. It must be said that there’s never been a proper vegetation study in Wissahickon Park. Besides, research out of Ohio State University has challenged the science that suggests that deer ravage forest ecosystems. Also, deer, in fact, contribute to the health of forest habitats.
You won’t hear that from the other side. And now comes a recent revelation. Heavy human use in a number of areas in Wissahickon Park is “devastating the forest habitat.” You don’t say! Actually, the “human load” on Wissahickon Park has been a concern for a very long time.
One haunting issue is the killing operation itself. now carried out by a federal government agency since 2001. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services claims to deliver’ “head and neck shots when possible. … Deer are removed on a first opportunity basis with some bias toward adult females who are the first to be shot when present.”
A large number of all those killed are fawns and yearlings. The private contractor who began the deer kill in Wissahickon Park testified on March 19, 1999, that if there’s any movement when shot in the neck, crippling likely results. He further stated that he targeted the center of the brain which with one shot brought death instantaneously. Days later he began the gruesome task. No one is allowed to see Wildlife Services in action, not even a major news outlet whose request to witness a deer kill was denied. What really goes on in the dark of the night? It operates autonomously without the constraints of accountability. This secretive agency needs to be reined in.
The lives of deer, like our lives, have inherent value that demands respect for them as beings with needs and wants and with a place and purpose of their own. Do we have enough reverence for life to concede to them the right to live fulfilling lives as our wild neighbors? Deer, more than ever, are a test of our character. How we treat them defines us. The longer this continues, the more this hellish cycle of violence is accepted. Wildlife expert, Laura Simon, once said, “The problem is not the deer; it’s learning to live with the deer.” Author Mathew Scully described deer as” unoffending animals in need of a break.”
Bridget W. Irons