The Joint State Government Commission Friday released the report, Violence Prevention in Pennsylvania, commissioned by Senate Resolution 6 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) which makes 44 recommendations to help prevent violence, addressing school safety, mental health, responsible gun ownership, and violence in media.
Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, who serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the legislation following the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut.
The Resolution directed the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission, a legislative research agency, to study the causes of violence and recommend what might be done to prevent violence in Pennsylvania. A 34 member advisory committee of experts from across the Commonwealth joined to compile the report.
“I felt that the General Assembly was in need of some direction and careful consideration before prematurely enacting legislation addressing violence and firearms following the Sandy Hook incident,” said Sen. Greenleaf. “ Too often we concentrate on laws that punish instead of measures that can prevent violence. From the beginning, the advisory committee members were asked to look at how we can prevent violence from happening, not to focus on punishment.”
The report recommends changes to Pennsylvania’s mental health laws to better address individuals displaying clear signs of severe mental illness. Also, the report calls for additional funding for community mental health services.
Recommendations are made regarding the news media’s treatment of violence and warns against creating notoriety and celebrity status for the perpetrators of violence. While no causal link has been established between violent video games and violence, the committee recommends further research on the link between violent video games and acts of violence.
The advisory committee makes recommendations on responsible gun ownership and the safe storage of firearms in households where children are present.
The report recommends that the list of crimes disqualifying a person from gun ownership be expanded to include criminal attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy. It also asks the Legislature to consider whether all involuntary commitments for mental health disorders should result in disqualification from gun ownership.
“The advisory committee has allowed for wide input from a variety of backgrounds and professionals including law enforcement and mental health experts,” said Sen. Greenleaf. “This allows for a fair, balanced, and bipartisan examination of this issue that establishes some guidelines for lawmakers. I hope that the Legislature will carefully consider this report. We have started a meaningful examination of violence, and now we can begin to take steps towards prevention.”A copy of the report is available online.