As the national debate over gun control continues to rage, local residents on both sides of the issue gathered in Bucks County on Saturday to let their voices be heard.
More than 100 people joined a rally with CeasefirePa and other anti-gun violence groups outside the Doylestown Courthouse where they called for universal background checks on all firearms.
Pennsylvania requires a background check on all sales of handguns and all sales by a federally licensed firearms dealer. However, the private sales of long guns, including semi-automatic rifles, are exempt from the checks, a situation that the protesters say needs to change.
“Background checks work,” said Shira Goodman, the executive director of CeasefirePa. “The only people who have reason to fear background checks are those who know they cannot pass a background check. Everyone agrees that these are the very people who should not have access to guns.”
“There is no reason for a civilian to have an assault type weapon,” said Steve Kesselman, who lost his 20-year-old son to gun violence last year. “Handguns do enough damage.”
A vocal group of gun owners also showed up to the courthouse carrying both signs and weapons, arguing that groups like CeaseFire are threatening their second amendment right.
“Criminals aren’t going to abide by any of that," said Alex Bentrim of Doylestown. " All it’s going to do is make it more difficult for average individuals like us to protect ourselves.”
Robert Mansfield, who served in the Iraq War, agreed.
"As a man, I'm responsible to take care of my family," he said. "The second amendment gives me that right."
A series of gun control measures, supported by President Obama, will be up for vote in the Senate in early September.