In the wake of recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Friday signed an executive order Friiday to make changes to executive branch agencies and programs aimed at targeting what Wolf says is a public health crisis of gun violence.

Wolf says the order will take substantive steps to reduce gun violence and make communities safer.

According to the governor's office, more than 1,600 people died in Pennsylvania from gunshot wounds in 2017, a rate above the national average. Also, guns account for the weapon used in 74 percent of all homicides and 52 percent of fatal suicides in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf’s Executive Order will immediately implement the following:

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.

Combating 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.

New state offices will be created focusing on violence prevention and reduction, expand programs that promote safety, refocus departments on Combating gun violence as a public health crisis, and increase collaboration and data sharing between the public, government agencies and other states. Charles Ramsey, Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, will advise the executive branch on implementing the changes.

“Too many Pennsylvanians are losing their lives to gun violence, and even more Pennsylvanians’ lives are being disrupted by the terror and fear caused by gun violence,” Governor Wolf said. “We simply are not doing enough to stop people from dying and to give communities the peace of mind that they deserve. This order will make sure the executive branch is doing more and focusing on gun violence as both a public safety problem and public health crisis.”

Wolf says he will press the General Assembly to advance gun safety reforms when they return to session.”

In addition to calling for a federal assault weapons ban, Wolf will 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, and mandating universal background checks by the Pennsylvania State Police on all gun purchases.

The Wolfe administration says spikes in gun violence have led to billions of taxpayer dollars going toward efforts to increase security in schools and other public places and provide medical care to survivors, while families and communities have suffered invaluable losses when loved ones die of senseless gun violence.

In addition to his call for a federal assault weapons ban, 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, and mandating universal background checks by the Pennsylvania State Police on all gun purchases.