On the same day that dozens of people died in a Las Vegas field after a man opened fire from a hotel window, three Centre County legislators were dealing with gun-related issues at work.
For U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, it was a big one — the SHARE Act.
The SHARE Act is a bundle of legislation that targets hunting and recreation issues. It includes things like shooting ranges on federal land, management of wolf populations and bringing bows into National Park Service lands.
The legislation also included a political lightning rod for some reeling from Stephen Paddock’s Sunday night attack on a country music concert where he shot and killed 59 people from his hotel room. SHARE rolls in the Hearing Protection Act, legislation that would make it easier to buy what the industry calls suppressors but what the public is likely to know as a “silencer,” a tool that muffles the sound of a gunshot.
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Thompson, a vocal National Rifle Association supporter, is not listed on the bill as an official co-sponsor. He did, however, show support.
“The SHARE Act moved out of the Natural Resources Committee and the congressman voted to advance the bill. The next step in the process is that it would be debated on the House floor. To date, there is nothing on the schedule for this bill,” said spokeswoman Renee Gamela.
Thompson expressed sorrow over the Las Vegas tragedy.
“It is heartbreaking that a night of music, family and friends turned into an attack on innocent people. As the details of that terrible day unfold, we learn of the bravery, love and sacrifice demonstrated by everyday citizens,” he said.
However, he stood firm on the gun issue.
“Understandably, such profound loss has led to high emotions and calls from some to limit an individual’s ability to access firearms. While many questions remain about the suspect, I am hopeful the investigation will provide us with answers. Should it be found that a significant policy shortfall would have prevented this attack, I will certainly welcome a debate in Congress on the merits of any proposal. In the meantime, my prayers continue to be with the families of those who died and with those who were injured for a full recovery,” he said.
This is not the first time Thompson has stood by his Second Amendment convictions after a tragedy.
In 2013, Philipsburg florist Traci Raymond Miscavish was shot at a Decatur Township, Clearfield County, grocery store where she worked, murdered by her estranged husband, a retired state police officer who still had access to his weapons despite being on bail for an assault on his wife. The husband then took his own life.
Less than two weeks later, Thompson attended an NRA rally at Grice Gun Shop in Clearfield, about 20 miles from the scene of the crime. He wore a handgun on his hip and pulled on the red “Stand and Fight” shirt he was handed.
Thompson has received $10,500 from the NRA of America Political Victory Fund since 2009.
For two state legislators, the issue was an event.
State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, and state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, jointly announced a concealed carry permit seminar for November, asking for reservations due to limited space for the event.
Two days later, the seminar was rethought.
“We are going to postpone,” said Corman’s spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher. “It’s just not the right time.”
It will be rescheduled, however. Kocher said the point of the seminar was to keep people safe and aware of the law.
“We want to make sure that those who choose to own guns know about firearms safety and all related laws. There are responsibilities that come with it,” she said. “At this point, we think that maybe the educational messages will be lost. What happened in Las Vegas is horrific, and we want to have that in our minds as a nation as we continue to mourn.”
People had contacted the legislators about reservations, but there were also communications that were concerned. Michael Biek, of State College, copied the Centre Daily Times on a list of 21 questions he sent to both lawmakers about gun-related issues.
“Should gun owners be required to undergo some sort of certified training, either before being allowed to purchase a gun and/or on a regular schedule? If not, why not?” was one of the questions.