Mayor Peduto with Moms Demand Action President Shannon Watts. Photo courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh.

Less than 10 months after a man armed with an AR-15 rampaged through the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, our nation is once again picking up the pieces, this time after a series of horrific mass shootings.

During a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday morning, Shannon Watts, founder of the national gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, joined Mayor Bill Peduto to urge both lawmakers and citizens to push for stronger gun control laws.

“We have debated these issues for decades,” said Mayor Peduto. “It’s time for action.”

To get a sense of what that action might look like at a local level, we turned to Marilyn Mulvihill, Sewickley resident and Pittsburgh spokesperson for Moms Demand Action.

Mulvihill said the gun control bills with the greatest chances of success are currently languishing in the U.S. Senate.

“There are two bills sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk,” she says. “He will not bring them up for a vote.”

The ‘Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019’ and the ‘Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019’, which were approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in February, would require universal background checks for all gun purchases and expand the waiting period.

In addition, there is S. 66 — a proposal introduced earlier this year by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) to ban assault weapons. It is also sitting in legislative limbo.

In the near term, Mulvihill recommends residents contact their Pennsylvania senators to demand action on these specific bills, as well as the “red flag” legislation currently under consideration. That legislation would allow courts to temporarily remove firearms from a person whose actions suggest they may present a danger to others or themselves.

Senators Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) can be reached online or by phone, but Mulvihill said nothing beats face-to-face conversations with your local representatives.

With Congress in recess until mid-September, “attend town halls for your representative,” says Mulvihill. “Stand up and talk about passing sensible gun laws.”

To help drive turnout and keep the pressure on, Moms Demand Action is organizing “recess rallies” across the country on Aug. 17 and 18. The date, location and time for the Pittsburgh rally has not been announced yet.

In the meantime, Moms Demand Action is joining a number of local community-based, anti-violence groups, including Casa San José and Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, for a rally and vigil on Thursday evening at Sixth Presbyterian Church.

Details can be found here.

Moms Demand Action began as a Facebook page in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Today, the grassroots network has 6 million members and chapters in every state.

“It’s not just for moms,” says Mulvihill. “We have quite a number of men who are involved.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.