As the nation reels in the aftermath of the school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, one local legislator admitted that he had difficulty sleeping Tuesday night.
State Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Hollidaysburg, said he can’t fathom the amount of evil that exists in a person that would have an 18-year-old walk into a school and start shooting at children.
Fixing the problem is elusive, though.
“We have had gun violence for a long time, “ Gregory said during a telephone interview. “We didn’t get here overnight, and it is not something we can fix overnight either.”
Gregory said it is frustrating, because many lawmakers do want to come up with a plan to stop the violence.
“We need to focus less on winning elections and more on electing candidates because they are good leaders,” Gregory said.
In a speech on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., expressed his grief and outrage that there was yet another school shooting.
The deaths of 19 children and two adults happened because an armed gunman came into a school with body armor protecting him from the response from any law enforcement, he said.
This comes at barely less than a week after a gunman went into a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.
“And we’re supposed to just get used to this,” Casey asked rhetorically. “I guess that seems to be the response here in Washington.”
He said the Senate should be able to pass a background check bill supported by 90% of the American people.
“This is a uniquely American problem,” Casey said during the speech.
Casey said politics seems to get in the way.
“What we should be saying to these families, in addition to offering our sympathy, is that your government has failed you,” he said. “In this case, in this chamber, it’s failed because one side will not even entertain the idea of passing any gun measures.”
In the wake of the shooting, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called for immediate action from the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation to pass common sense legislation to prevent gun violence.
“I am horrified by these tragedies, and I am angry that our lawmakers continue to fail to address gun violence,” Wolf said in a statement.
He asked how many more children must die and how many more mass shootings must the nation witness before “we wake up to the reality that gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed.”
“Pennsylvania knows Texas’ pain. Too many states and communities know this pain as well. We lost five children in the 2006 mass shooting at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County. The 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh gave us the terrible distinction of being home to the deadliest antisemitic attack in the country. And we see gun violence regularly in our communities,” he said.
Wolf said he was “tired of the lack of action” and urged Pennsylvanians to call on lawmakers at the state and federal levels to take meaningful steps to end gun violence.
“People should feel safe going to school, the supermarket, their place of worship, the mall, the movies and even outside in their community,” Wolf said.
Mirror Staff Writer Cati Keith can be reached at 814-946-7535.