A firearms instructor holds a handgun.
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Pennsylvania lawmaker exchanges gunfire with alleged robber

Updated

While walking home in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, one Democratic state representative exchanged gunfire with an armed man allegedly attempting to steal his wallet.

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Democratic state Reps. Marty Flynn and Ryan Bizzarro were walking home to their building in Harrisburg just before 11 p.m. when a man reportedly pointed a gun at them and demanded they hand over their wallets. Flynn, who is licensed to possess a firearm, drew his handgun and exchanged shots with the individual before both groups ran in different directions, according to a release from the House Democratic Caucus in Pennsylvania.

No one was injured during the incident. Flynn is a former prisoner guard and supervisor, and Bizzarro is a former victim-witness coordinator for county courts.

The shooting occurred just hours after the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence launched a provocative national public awareness campaign for a future where no child is killed by a parent’s firearm. The new initiative includes a report, titled “The Truth About Kids & Guns,” and a nationally televised public service announcement and digital advertisements featuring David Wheeler, whose son was killed in the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Missy Jenkins Smith, who was permanently paralyzed after being shot at her Kentucky high school in 1997. Each platform aims to help parents understand the risks of keeping a gun inside the home.

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There have been 2,703 child and teenage firearm deaths since 2011, which means that, each day, seven kids are killed by a bullet, according to the report. Currently, 1.7 million children have access to an unlocked, loaded gun inside their home.

“These kids were shot in different ways by varying intents,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign. “But one thing is certain: Every one of them is a tragedy and should lead to public outcry about the continuous threat that gun violence poses to our nation’s children and teens.”

Each year, nearly 20,000 children and teenagers are injured or killed by firearms in the United States. Studies show that most youth gun deaths involve a gun from or inside a home, including school shootings, unintentional shootings, and suicides.

“I can’t help but wonder how different my family’s life would be now if there had been a different attitude toward the responsibility of keeping firearms secure in the home,” Wheeler said. “I don’t know who in their right mind can look at the number of innocent lives lost because a child found a parent’s or another adult’s gun and think, ‘Oh, that’s OK. That’s fine. I can live with that.

One of the ads features Wheeler’s image next to text that reads, “My son will be six years old forever.”

The Brady Campaign invested an initial $500,000 toward the initiative, which Gross said will continue until supporters achieve their vision of a future where no child is killed by a parent’s gun. The new multi-platform campaign coincides with America’s Safe Schools Week, which begins Sunday.

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Authorities evacuated Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier this month following a bomb threat that was called into the school in Monroe, Connecticut, where students have attended classes following the tragedy inside the original building in nearby Newtown. The threat came just days after two U.S. schools were placed on lockdown following separate incidents – one in North Carolina and one in Kentucky – with individuals carrying and firing guns on academic grounds. And Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, the site of the 1999 shooting massacre, was recently placed on lockout because of an undisclosed “threat.”

Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords kicked off a nine-state tour this week to encourage politicians to pass stronger local and federal laws that protect women from gun violence. She will speak alongside legislators, law enforcement officials, and domestic violence advocates during her trip, which began Tuesday in Portland, Maine.

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Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries. Last month, Giffords organized a panel of women leaders and abuse survivors who gathered in the country’s capital to explore possible next steps for Congress in addressing the intersection of domestic violence and gun policy. Giffords, who was injured by a gunman outside of a supermarket in 2011, launched an initiative in July to educate state and federal lawmakers on the need for solutions that protect women from violence.

Also on Tuesday, Giffords’ pro-reform gun group, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), released a new advertisement that highlights Iowa Republican David Young’s opposition to closing existing loopholes in the federal background checks system. In the Hawkeye State, individuals convicted of domestic abuse can buy guns without passing a background check.

The gun lobby spent $18,000 to elect Young, according to the video, titled “Loopholes.” Young, who is running in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, helped lead the fight against the failed bipartisan bill proposed last year to close the gun sale loopholes.

“To David Young, it’s about money and politics. To women in Iowa, it’s about our lives,” the narrator says.

The new 30-second spot is the organization’s latest effort to spread awareness about candidates who have pushed for stronger restrictions on firearms. The new television ad is expected to air on broadcast and cable outlets for at least 10 days as the country closes in on the Nov. 4 midterm elections, when Young will face off against his Democratic challenger, Staci Appel.

ARS previously released other commercials focusing on politicians’ opposition to closing the loophole, including Republicans Frank Guinta and Marilinda Garcia of New Hampshire, and Martha McSally of Arizona. The group last month applauded a different GOP candidate, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, for attempting to encourage both his Republican and Democratic colleagues to pass stricter gun-control measures.

Gabrielle Giffords, Gun Policy, Gun Violence, Iowa and Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania lawmaker exchanges gunfire with alleged robber

Updated