Public hearing occupies City-County lobby

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Co-News Editor

On Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:00 p.m., the lobby of the City-County Building was the host to a public hearing. The hearing was held in regards to gun control legislation that was proposed by council members Corey O’Connor and Erika Strassburger.

Photo by Jordyn Hronec
A concerned citizen addresses the Pittsburgh City-Council during a public hearing regarding proposed gun-control legislation.

Due to the high volume of citizens and speakers that were expected to attend, the hearing was moved to the lobby rather than the Council Chambers. According to KDKA news, before the event began, over 100 speakers had already registered.

The hearing comes after a Second Amendment rally was held in front of the City-County Building on Monday, Jan. 8. The large crowds during this rally were a precursor to the high turnout at the hearing. The hearing also comes after Mayor Bill Peduto, a supporter of the legislation, clashed with the District Attorney, Stephen Zappala, who warned in a letter to Peduto that the proper way to go about this type of legislation is through Harrisburg.

Before the hearing began, two lines stretched from where the City Council was seated all the way to the building’s Ross Street entrance. One line was designated for pre-registered speakers, and another was reserved for non-registered speakers. Registered speakers were given three minutes to speak, and non-registered speakers were given one minute.

Speakers at the event included psychologists, human rights activists, gun rights enthusiasts, army veterans, children, citizens of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood and members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, where a shooting took place this past October that left 11 people dead.

One speaker, Rob Conroy from Pittsburgh, is a member of an organization called CeaseFirePA, which works throughout the state of Pennsylvania to end gun violence.

“We need these laws in Pittsburgh, and we need to continue the fight to push these initiatives both state and nation-wide,” Conroy said in his address to City Council. “I’m proud of the women and men who lead this city – people like Councilwoman Strassburger and Councilman O’Connor, who have led this particular fight – and who, by introducing these ordinances and working to forge a statewide coalition around them, are standing up to the violence at both Tree of Life and in so many neighborhoods on a daily basis.”

Another speaker, Ian Davis, a personal defense instructor from McKees Rocks, opposed the legislation. In his speech, he gave a series of facts that illustrated why banning weapons like the AR-15 may not be effective in lessening gun violence.

“An AR-15 rifle with a 30 round magazine shoots up to 100 rounds per minute,” Davis explained in his speech. “A 10 pound Civil War rifle shoots up to 30 rounds per minute. And the most rapid-fire massive shooting in the history of the United States since Columbine has achieved only 31 rounds per minute. Conclusion – given what we experienced in the 50 mass shootings since Columbine, given that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and all other factors remain the same, it’s unreasonable to conclude that reduction in the 30-round magazine capacity of the AR-15 will materially contribute to reducing the casualty or death rate of mass shootings.”

David Lynch, a Pittsburgh resident, was an unregistered speaker at the event.

Photo by Jordyn Hronec
Two lines of citizens waiting to speak before the Pittsburgh City-Council stretch through the lobby of the City-Council Building.

“I’m here for the same reason as a lot of people,” Lynch said. “I’m pro-gun. I feel like this legislation that’s being passed goes against my rights.”

There was very little room in the building for citizens who were simply looking to observe, which according to City-County Building workers, was the goal, as they were concerned that even the massive lobby wouldn’t be large enough to hold those wishing to address the Council, let alone citizen onlookers.

However, some members of the public who wished to observe were able to make it in.

“We’re just here to see what’s going on,” Mark Johnson of Pittsburgh said. “We’re curious.”

Johnson and his friend, Eugene Greene of Carrick, were both seated on a bench along the perimeter of the lobby, outside of the lines.

“I’m here seeing that my rights don’t get violated,” Greene said.

Other attendees included Keith Somers of Squirrel Hill, who represented the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP supports gun control legislation and views the issue of gun violence as a public health issue.

At the hearing, the Council President Bruce Kraus had to repeatedly remind speakers to keep the noise to a minimum, as the large number of attendants and the acoustics of the lobby made it hard to hear speakers at times. Also, after select speeches, the crowd had a tendency to break out in applause.

“This is not a theater, this is an official hearing of the Pittsburgh City Council and it will be conducted as such,” Kraus announced at one point in the evening.

This, however, did not stop attendants from letting their voices be heard.

One woman at the hearing carried and held a sign that read “Impeach Peduto Here!”

Others expressed frustration with the process, with one man exclaiming, “They put us in an echo chamber, how are we supposed to hear any damn thing?”

One man brought along a gallon bucket to sit on while he waited in the long line.

The legislation in question proposes bans on certain semi-automatic weapons and accessories within the limits of the City of Pittsburgh. There is also a proposed bill that would grant authorities the right to remove weapons from any person they deem to be an extreme threat.

According to the Tribune-Review, following the hearing, the City Council is considering amending the proposed legislation in order to make it more clear to citizens which types of guns will be banned.

The City Council is expected to vote on the legislation within the coming weeks. After that, the legislation will move on to a final vote. Then it will come before Mayor Peduto for his approval.

Should the Council pass this legislation, there is expected to be a long legal battle with organizations such as the National Rifle Association and gun advocates in Pennsylvania.