Front Page

Gov. Wolf issues executive order aimed at reducing gun violence

Governor Tom Wolf on Friday signed an executive order making changes to executive branch agencies and programs to better target gun violence in Pennsylvania.

The governor’s executive order names Charles Ramsey, chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), as a senior advisor charged with coordinating and facilitating gun violence reduction. Ramsey will lead a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the PCCD, and the office will contain a Special Council on Gun Violence tasked with meeting within 60 days to begin developing a plan to reduce gun violence in the state.

The executive order also creates the Division of Violence Prevention within the Department of Health. The two new offices will work together to tackle gun violence from both the gun safety and public health perspectives.

“Too many Pennsylvanians are dying from gun violence,” Gov. Wolf said. “We need to fix our weak gun laws and pass reforms focused on increasing safety and reducing danger to our citizens.”

“I believe that these measures that the governor is proposing today, while falling short of what I think we should be doing as a legislature, will save lives,” commented Rep. Dan Frankel. “But they do not take the place of the reforms that the General Assembly has refused to take up. We currently have about two dozen reasonable, commonsense reform bills languishing in the House without so much as a committee hearing. There is so much more the Pennsylvania legislature can do to prevent tragedies.”

More than 1,600 people died in Pennsylvania from gunshot wounds in 2017, a rate above the national average. Guns were used in 74 percent of all homicides and 52 percent of fatal suicides in Pennsylvania.

In addition to his call for a federal assault weapons ban, Gov Wolf said Friday that he will also call upon the General Assembly to pass safe storage legislation to reduce the number of accidental shootings, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, also known as the red flag law, lost and stolen gun reporting, and universal background checks by the Pennsylvania State Police on all gun purchases.

Here’s some more detail on the executive order, courtesy of Gov. Wolf’s office:

Special Council on Gun Violence

  • Housed at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), the Special Council on Gun Violence will consist of representatives from the following:
    • One representative from each of PCCD’s existing advisory committees, including the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, the Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee, the School Safety and Security Committee, and the Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Education and Training Board;
    • One representative from each of the four legislative caucuses of the General Assembly or their designees;
    • The Secretaries of Education, Health, and Human Services, the State Police Commissioner, the Executive Director of PCCD, and the Director of the Office of Homeland Security;
    • Any other ex-officio member as designated by the Governor.
  • The Council will meet within 60 days of the signing of the Executive Order and will be responsible for the following:
    • Adopting a public health and community engagement strategy that includes gun owners, health care professionals, and victims of gun-related incidents,
    • Reviewing current background check processes for firearms purchasers and making recommendations for improvement,
    • Reviewing best practices and making recommendations that keep weapons from dangerous individuals,
    • Identifying and defining strategies across Commonwealth agencies to align resources to reduce gun violence, and
    • Providing PCCD and the Senior Advisor with recommendations to reduce incidents of community violence, mass shootings, and domestic violence, suicide, and accidental shootings within 180 days of the initial meeting of the Council.

New Oversight and Data Sharing

  • Establish the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within PCCD and the Division of Violence Prevention within the Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction. Together, the offices will tackle gun violence and prevention from both the public safety and public health perspectives.
    • Charles Ramsey, Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, will serve as senior advisor to the Governor, leading the commonwealth’s efforts on gun reform.
    • Charge the Office of Gun Violence Prevention with coordinating a system of focused police deterrence in neighborhoods and cities where violence is most extreme; work with other Commonwealth agencies and stakeholders on community gun violence prevention; and lost and stolen firearms reporting requirements for law enforcement.
    • PCCD will staff the new Special Council on Gun Violence, which will meet within 60 days of the executive order signing to begin developing a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence.
  • Direct all departments to engage in a statewide effort at combatting the systemic causes of violence, namely poverty, economic opportunities, mental and behavioral health supports, and hopelessness.
  • Establish a Violence Data Dashboard to provide a better understanding of the scope, frequency, geography, and populations affected by violence, including counts, rates, and factors contributing to violence.

Reducing Community Gun Violence

  • Expand and support gun buyback programs through the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and municipal police departments.
  • Direct PSP and the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) to develop training on community gun violence prevention and focused deterrence.
  • Increase data sharing among jurisdictions to ensure broad geographical data is represented and tracked at the state level.
  • Partner with the courts to grow awareness and utilization of evidence-based juvenile justice programs that are proven to reduce violent crimes.
  • Expand Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), a proactive approach to improving school safety and promoting positive behavior, in schools statewide.

Combatting Mass Shootings

  • Charge PSP with expanding their monitoring of hate groups, white nationalists, and other fringe organizations and individuals, and conducting investigations, online and in communities, related to any threats of violence by these groups or individuals.
  • Expand the “See Something/Send Something” program to receive reports of suspicions of mass shootings by text and use a campaign to raise awareness of the ability to contact police by text.
  • Coordinate PSP and MPOTEC with local first responders to develop training on how to facilitate and handle warnings of suspicions of potential mass shootings.
    • PSP and PA Capitol Police will coordinate with agency secretaries to offer active shooter/incident management training to all employees, not just management.
  • Enroll Pennsylvania in the “States for Gun Safety” coalition, a multistate partnership charged with combatting the gun violence by sharing information and establishing the nation’s first regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.
  • Direct the Office of Homeland Security to launch an awareness campaign regarding the local, state, and federal resources on safety planning and preparedness.

Halting Domestic Violence-Related and Self-Inflicted Shootings

  • Direct the Suicide Prevention Task Force to make immediate recommendations on steps to reduce suicides by gun.
  • Build on current Mental Health Stigma campaigns that provide families and communities with real stories and statistics as well as information about how to access resources.
  • Develop a multidisciplinary Suicide Death Review Team to increase data collection and inform preventions efforts and policy decisions.
  • Increase awareness of and strengthen services within the Student Assistance Program, which allow school districts to provide mental health referrals, across the commonwealth by providing technical assistance.


About the author


1 Comment

  • These are some issues Gov. Wolf’s team should examine. A fact to remember, 2/3 gun deaths are suicides. This is a mental health issue not solved by new gun laws. For the remainder of deaths, they occur predominantly in certain areas of the state, i.e. Philadelphia.

    This article explores five aspects of gun violence in Pennsylvania that are especially alarming, unusual, or above the national average:

    1. Pennsylvania’s rate of gun homicides is among the highest in the nation, particularly in communities of color.
    2. Pennsylvania law enforcement officers are killed with guns at an exceptionally high rate.
    3. More Pennsylvanians are killed by gun violence than in car accidents annually.
    4. Pennsylvania is a top supplier of crime guns recovered in other states.
    5. Pennsylvania women are killed with guns wielded by intimate partners at a high rate.

Leave a Comment