Category Archives: US Congress

In the Kennett Spotlight: Mary Ellen Balchunis

from Kennett Area Democrats November 2016 newsletter

Candidate for PA’s 7th Congressional District

If Mary Ellen Balchunis is successful on Election Day, November 8th, she will leave the halls of academe in January for the halls of Congress. Running for U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania’s 7th District, Professor Balchunis teaches political science at LaSalle University, where she reminds her students that the government should always be, in the words of the Founding Fathers: “we the people, by the people.” Fearing that America is beginning to embrace “of the rich and for the rich,” instead, she decided she needed to run for Congress to advocate for restoring the nation’s original values.

One of the issues that is paramount in the Balchunis campaign is gun control. While she firmly supports the 2nd amendment, she believes in legislating the restrictions, which would curb gun violence. Further, she firmly supports background checks and a ban on assault weapons. An early proponent of gun control, she marched with her young daughter in the 2000 Million Mom March. Understandably, she seriously laments the fact that nothing has changed in the last sixteen years. It’s probably worse, because, as she says, “Congress is beholden to the National Rifle Association.”

When Mary Ellen Balchunis leaves the classroom to go to Congress, her constituents in 7th District can be assured that she will be guided by a singular tenet: Restore power to the people.

Submitted, Brenda Mercomes


Pa. Sen. Bob Casey, officials seek answers to gun violence

By Rick Kauffman, Times Herald, 8/10/16

CHESTER >> A visit from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to Chester City Hall on Tuesday was focused on the trend of gun violence in urban areas.

Joined by Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, Chester police Commissioner Darren Alston, Norristown police Chief Mark Talbot and members of local youth and study groups, the small summit discussed methods that politicians, police officers and residents must make to address public safety.

“Certainly part of the discussion is about the need for a comprehensive approach to this challenge of gun violence,” said Casey, D-Pa. “I think there are a series of common-sense measures that Congress should pass — background check legislation, limiting the clips of the magazines, banning the military-style weapons.”

On the state level, two measures on implementing stricter background checks — House Bill 1010 and Senate Bill 1049 — have failed to gain traction in Harrisburg this year after a push from supporters and a demonstration at the Capitol Building.

More recently, HB 1496, which increases the maximum available penalties for felons who illegally possess firearms, HB 1497, which bars a juvenile adjudicated for selling drugs from possessing a firearm until age 30, and HB 1498, which requires the state police to send all existing Pennsylvania mental health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 90 days, all passed by large margins.

Casey, however, said more needs to be done on the federal level to keep guns out of the wrong hands. …

read more at Times Herald

Congress Is Done Talking About Gun Control and Is Ready for Vacation

By George Zornick, The Nation, 7/13/16

An activist push for an assault weapons ban fell on deaf ears in Congress on Tuesday

Despite two high-profile and horrific acts of gun violence in the past month, Congress is likely to leave town this week for a two-month recess without taking any action on gun control. House Speaker Paul Ryan was planning a vote on a deeply flawed piece of legislation that would potentially prevent the sale of weapons to people on the terror watchlist, but now even a vote on that bill appears to be off the table.

On Tuesday, there were a few events marking the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Pulse nightclub—but mainly kept outside the doors of the Capitol. In the evening, on the front steps, the House LGBT caucus along with several members of Democratic leadership held a vigil for the victims of the shooting, the worst in American history, and demanded “action” on gun control.

Earlier in the day, a small group of activists and progressive members of Congress stood outside the Capitol building and demand reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. If there was ever a political moment for getting both parties to at least talk about the ban, one would think it might come after a professed adherent of ISIS used an assault weapon to kill 49 people, followed shortly by a man using an assault rifle to conduct urban combat against police officers in Dallas, killing five of them….

read more at The Nation

Time to ignore decorum in the Gun Violence Debate?

letter, Daily Local News, 7/6/16

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, Senate Dems took to the floor and conducted a Filibuster that went into the wee hours of the morning, pleading with the Republican leadership to bring common sense gun bills up for a vote: on expanding background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists. The Senate leadership relented, and had votes on 5 different bills. They all failed.

The House Dems surprised everyone by practicing civil disobedience and conducting a Sit-in, disrupting normal proceedings with their demand for a vote on the same types of gun sense bills. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the House to an early vacation rather than giving in to their demands for a vote. Some may say these types of actions are ‘out of order’ and ‘against the rules.’ I say, when it comes to saving lives,  sometimes you have to shake things up. What did the Congress do after Charleston, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora,  after Tucson, after Sandy Hook? What are they doing now after Orlando? The answer is the same, NOTHING! Well

Certain members of Congress and the American public are fed up with the Do Nothing Congress-many having received $ from the NRA,  and are, to borrow a phrase from a famous movie, “Mad as Hell and Won’t Take it Anymore!”  Decorum and order go out the window when Congress can’t even lift a finger to do what 90% of their constituents  want them to do- a background check for every gun sale, public and private.

Our organization protested under the office windows of US Congressman Ryan Costello this week, because he represents  the ‘Do Nothing’ Congress. He has refused to take a stand on any gun sense bill despite repeated requests to do so, and  refuses to meet personally with our group. Is this out of order, not following the rules of decorum? When it comes to something as important as saving lives,  Decorum can sometimes go out the window.

Tom Buglio
Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

“Rep. Costello, do your job!”

By Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 6/29/16

“Rep. Costello, do your job!” was the first of several chants by the 25 people assembled under his office window on West Market St. on June 27.

Then, it was on to “Background checks now!” and “No guns for terrorists!”

And “What did Congress do after Sandy Hook?” Reply: “Nothing!” And the chants went on to a list of other mass shootings after which Congress likewise did nothing.

Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence leader Tom Buglio pointed out that 80-90% of Americans poll as wanting background checks and gun denials for individuals on the terrorist watch list—issues about which Rep. Ryan Costello (R PA-06) won’t meet with CCCPGV personally, though his office staff has.

According to Buglio, Costello is typical of today’s US House: he took $10,000 in NRA funding 2 years ago and avoids every chance to engage with gun violence prevention advocates. Buglio read from Costello’s statement after the Orlando shootings; Costello speaks repeatedly of “terrorism” and “hate” but does not stress that terrorists and haters should not have easy access to assault-style guns.

Activists have repeatedly asked Costello to cosponsor HR 1217, introduced by Peter King [R-NY-2] and cosponsored by almost 200, including 5 R’s and 2 D’s from PA, but Costello will not answer. (See HR 1217 info here.) Buglio challenged Costello: “Stop protecting the NRA and start protecting your constituents.”

The next speaker, John Gribbin, saw Orlando as an attack directed against the LGBT population, not as terrorism in general….

read more at Politics: A View from West Chester

Congress vs. the States on Guns

editorial, New York Times, 6/21/16

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided to not take up Second Amendment challenges to laws in Connecticut and New York that ban the sale or possession of many semiautomatic assault rifles and large-capacity magazines in those states.

With those denials, the latest of more than 70 rejections of challenges to gun regulations, the justices have made it clear that reasonable gun-control laws are fully consistent with Second Amendment rights.

Yet Congress has refused time and again to help protect Americans from rampant gun violence, and so it has fallen on state lawmakers to address this national crisis. Some state and local governments have banned or restricted certain types of ammunition, or prohibited classes of people, like those convicted of multiple instances of drunken driving, from possessing guns. Others have imposed universal background checks and safe-storage requirements on gun owners.

read more at New York Times

Area legislators weigh in on gun violence, control

By Michael Rellahan, Daily Local News, 12/12/15

In 2015, the United States of America has experienced more than 350 mass shootings, more than one for every day of the year.

That’s dozens of people killed and hundreds of people wounded in places that are well known and others that are small enough to have previously escaped notice.

Opening up one’s newspaper and reading an account of people running from a building where a mass shooting has taken place is horrifying, but also is slowly becoming the “new normal.” Remember the February shooting in Douglassville, Ga., in which five people were killed, including several children? If you don’t, it could be because such news stories now seem to fit into the fabric of our lives.

In Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties in the Delaware Valley, the stark fact is that it will only be a matter of time before we recognize the building into which emergency responders are rushing to help save the lives of multiple shooting victims as being right down the street from where we live.

The editorial staff of Digital First Media, including the Daily Local News, recently asked the elected officials who represent our readers in Washington, D.C. to answer some simple but straight forward questions about gun violence and how to combat it. Following are the questions that we asked, and the responses that we received from those legislators.


What are your feelings about gun violence in America? How much of a concern is it of yours, both as a citizen and a legislator?

Are there steps that Congress and the president can take to reduce the incidence of gun violence? What are they?

Do you think that the laws governing gun purchases and ownership in the United States are a) sufficient to prevent gun violence, b) insufficient to prevent gun violence or c) in need of minor adjustments?

Do you think your constituents would favor increased gun control laws, or oppose them? Do you think you constituents want the government to act on gun control? How divided do you see the issue among your constituents?

Does the influence among legislators of the National Rifle Association alarm you, or not?…

See Daily Local News for responses of Senators Casey and Toomey and US Representatives Costello, Meehan, and Pitts.