Dueling Rallies Over Gun Control in Capitol

HARRISBURG — The issue of gun control took center stage at the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

Dueling rallies were held as lawmakers get back to business for the first time this year.

The ongoing debate over how best to stop gun violence brought hundreds of people to the Capitol building.

CeaseFirePA, a group pushing for what it calls “common sense” gun laws, held a rally featuring survivors of gun violence, including Pittsburgh area mother, Mary Beth Hacke.

Her son Ryan was 14 months old when he was killed by random gunfire.

“My heart is broken, and I’m forced to live with this pain every day. I’m here today to tell our governor and state officials that I’m tired of watching children die,” said Hacke.

CeaseFirePA is calling for laws to make communities safer. It wants universal background checks for gun buyers, and bans on semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“It is there to spray violence and create carnage, this is what killed my father, there is no legitimate use for this gun,” said Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Negin speaking of the MAC-10.

Not everyone came to the state capital for the same purpose. Proponents of gun rights also stood in the State Capitol, held signs and even spent time visiting lawmakers.

Their aim: to ensure their second amendment rights stay protected.

“To characterize a a semiautomatic as something that should be removed is something that’s a little bit ridiculous, overstepping their boundaries at that point,” said Jeff O’Brien, a member of the Firearms Owners Association of PA.

One thing both sides cab agree on is that lawmakers have not heard the last from both sides of this issue, not even close.

“Making important changes takes time. And I’m going to, along with many people, be very persistent to see that change happens,” said Lynn Wetherbee of Philadelphia.

Wednesday’s opposing rallies may have been indicative of the fight brewing in state government. Some lawmakers stood alongside those calling for stricter gun laws.

While other lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make any new federal gun laws unenforceable in Pennsylvania.

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