PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Several members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives were in Homewood Thursday morning. They were attending a public hearing on escalating gun violence, particularly related to assault-style weapons.
Some of the expert testimony was very technical, while other words from the panelists were quite emotional.
“We live with this daily — not just my family but all of us in this world and us in our districts live with violence that has been going on,” said Debra Short.
In 2010, her son, James Short III, was shot and killed in Homewood. The killer shot him with an AK-47 assault rifle.
Short was one of 10 people to testify at a policy committee hearing in Homewood titled “Ending Assault Weapons Violence.”
Ten people were asked to testify to members of the state House of Representatives. The first one to speak was Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams, MD. He focused on the what makes the AR-15, a weapon used by the Tree of Life shooter, such a deadly weapon.
“The energy released by an AR-15 is usually 10 times the energy that is released by a standard long rifle,” said Williams.
He added the relatively small caliber bullet fired by the AR-15 also is designed to do maximum damage when it hits its target.
The event was organized by Democrat Rep. Ed Gainey who represents Pennsylvania’s 24th District. In February, he co-sponsored a bill to ban assault weapons and assault-style weapons in the Commonwealth.
“When you hear Dr. Karl Williams talk about what happens when a semi-automatic hits the body, I want you to understand the impact,” said Rep. Gainey. “It is not only on that person, but on their family, on their community. That makes a difference.”
Dr. Williams was one of three medical professionals to testify at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Homewood. Dr. Raquel Forsythe also testified. She is the Director of Trauma at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
She says she has seen some big changes since she started her trauma and critical care residency in 1997.
“The gunshot wounds that we have seen over the 20 years of training, fellowship and practice, I am seeing a significant increase in the type of injuries,” observes Dr. Forsyth. “Part of that is related to the change in weapons that people are using.”
Rich Fitzgerald is the Allegheny County Executive. He says this is not about taking guns from law-abiding citizens or people who own guns for legitimate reasons.
“This isn’t about people that want to go hunting. This isn’t about taking away weapons from people who want to arm themselves,” he said.
Instead, it is about a group of people like Debra Short who says she hopes the conversation that started in Pittsburgh Thursday morning continues to Harrisburg and beyond. As she wrapped up her testimony, she thanked lawmakers for listening.
“Let’s stop all this. And thank you all for figuring it out. It may take a while, but thank you,” she said.