We were fortunate to have Peggy Walsh
With the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (https://bcwac.org),
a non-partisan coalition of Bucks County individuals and non-profit organizations that serve women and families. We educate and advocate together to promote gender equity and economic security for all speak to us this morning.
Peggy retired from Council Rock High School where she was the District Secondary English Coordinator and English teacher.
She is the mother of two grown children and grandmother of three children and lives in Morrisville with her husband Michael.
When Peggy retired 7 years ago, she joined Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition where she volunteered to be the gun safety advocate, charged with tracking legislation that would foster safety for all citizens, but particularly for women and families in Bucks County. Peggy writes guest opinions for the coalition, gives various presentations, serves as the BCWAC’s representative on a monthly call with Cease Fire’s PA4GVP (Pennsylvanian’s for Gun Violence Prevention) state-wide coalition. These 7 years have been a steep learning curve for an English teacher who has never owned or fired a gun.
The Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC) was organized in 2008 as an advocacy and education project of the Bucks County Women’s Fund, the Coalition was designated a 501(c)(4) charitable organization in 2015. It currently has more than 300 individual partners and 47 organizational partners are partnering to speak with one voice about the systemic public and private reforms needed to foster economic security of Bucks County women and their families.
The BCWAC has ten basic principles which guides its mission.
Principle 1: Women must have safe, secure housing
Principle 2: Women must have access to nutritious food and reliable transportation
Principle 3: Women must have access to comprehensive integrated services when needed
Principle 4: When assistance is needed, it will be provided in a manner that enables women to be as independent as possible and to achieve their full capacity in the economy
Jobs and Education
Principle 5: Women must have educational opportunities to achieve financial literacy
Principle 6: Women must have an adequate supply of employment opportunities which pay family-sustaining wages
Principle 7: Women must have access to high quality, affordable child care (including early care and education), eldercare, assistance to disabled individuals and caregiver support
Principle 8: Women must have workplace training and development needed for ongoing marketability and advancement
Principle 9: Women must have access to appropriate health care for all family members
Principle 10: Women must be free from predatory, exploitive, and abusive practices and
The main focus of her presentation centered around two pieces of gun-related legislation stalled in Harrisburg, HB 1747 which would prevent the Governor from suspending or limiting the sale, dispensing or transportation of firearms during a declared emergency. It would also remove the carry prohibitions that exist with exemptions. and HB 2440 which would make the entire firearms industry, retailers, and shooting ranges life-sustaining businesses and protects them from arbitrary closure during a state of emergency — at a time when you need them the most.
The BCWAC supports a common-sense policy agenda that will dramatically reduce gun violence, an epidemic that claims the lives of about 1,600 Pennsylvanians every year.
Gun violence takes many forms across the Commonwealth: suicide (62%), homicide (35%), mass shootings, and unintentional shootings (3% between the final two categories). And as surging gun sales in 2020 inject firearms into more volatile situations, it will only get worse.
First-time owners are up to 35 times more likely to commit suicide. Partners subject to domestic violence are five times more likely to die when a gun is present. And in recent months, homicides have climbed rapidly in Philadelphia and other cities. Different solutions are needed to address each part of this public health crisis, many of which have been proposed in previous legislative sessions. Based on significant research and an examination of gun violence in Pennsylvania, we believe the following common-sense policies are the best starting point:
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) will reduce firearms suicides, mass shootings, domestic violence, and even community violence/homicides. This policy establishes a process in which family members can petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a loved one in crisis without subjecting them to an involuntary mental-health commitment. Nineteen states–including Indiana, Florida and Colorado–have established these orders. Research conducted thus far has pointed to a clear decline in both suicides (13.7%) and mass shootings (13%). ERPO legislation has received wide-ranging support, including from the PA District Attorneys Association.
Closing the Private Sale Gap in Our Background Checks System would prevent violent felons and other potentially dangerous individuals from purchasing a long gun from a private/non-licensed seller. Keeping these weapons–which include military-style rifles, the weapon of choice for mass shootings–out of these individuals’ hands will prevent violent crimes and homicides, as well as mass shootings, where these types of firearms are often used. And a background check at the point of sale is the only surefire way to tell a “good guy with a gun” from “a bad guy with a gun.”
Lost or Stolen Gun Reporting would help prevent illegal firearms falling into the hands of people with violent intent. According to a recent study of Pittsburgh law enforcement, nearly a third of firearms recovered at crime scenes were said to have been stolen. This policy, which would require gun owners to report the loss or theft within three days of discovering the firearm is gone, would reduce community violence in our most beleaguered communities by requiring owners to act responsibly, and would give police a much-needed tracking tool to identify and investigate repeat “lost or stolen” offenders as potential neighborhood traffickers.
Peggy provided some statistics Statistics on Gun Violence in US (Everytown and PCADV)
38,000+ deaths/year. 100 Americans killed by guns every day. 100,120 injuries.
US gun suicides 10 times higher than that of other high income country
Access to guns increases risks of death by suicide 10X
Suicides concentrated in states with high rates of gun ownership
First-time gun owners are up to 35 times more likely to commit suicide in the next Decade (CF)
2nd leading cause of death for teens /children. 1700 per year
Polls show that the majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws.
Universal Background Checks 83% (PBS)
Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Laws (ERPO) 72% (PBS)
She also touched on the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision which ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms, unconnected with service in a militia, for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and that the District of Columbia's Handgun ban and requirement that lawfully owned rifles and shotguns be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock" violated this guarantee.
But Scalia also wrote something else in the Heller decision that the NRA didn’t applaud: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” He continued, that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and that it is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
However, the BCWAC is not solely focused on gun-related issues. Among the other causes they are championing are
Election-related issues, specifically PA House Bill 2916 to allow pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots 10 days before Election Day.
and Pay Equity; The American Association of University Women has released the new pay equity numbers in The Fight for Pay Equity: A State Road Map for Pennsylvania. The numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2019.
The good news is that in general salaries increased. The median earnings for men in Pennsylvania increased from $53,269 to $55,221, an increase of 4%. Women’s median earnings went from $43,243 to $43,791, an increase of 1%. Unfortunately, income in Pennsylvania did not increase as much as other states or for women compared to men, which means Pennsylvania’s earnings ratio fell from 81% or 21st last year to 79% or 32nd this year out of all the states and the District of Columbia.
However, in the first congressional district we made some progress. Income for men increased 2.3% while income for women increased 5.2% over last year. That resulted in a pay gap of 80.1% compared to 77.7% last year. That also raised our status in the state from 11th out of the 18 Pennsylvania congressional districts last year to fifth this year.
The numbers for Pennsylvania are not broken down by race or ethnicity, but we know that the ratios for women of color are much worse. October 29 is Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when Latina women’s earnings “catch up” to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. According to the new national pay equity numbers, Latinas saw a small increase from 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, to 55 cents in 2019. That means it takes Latinas ten additional months in order to be paid what the average non-Hispanic white man took home by December 31, 2019.
While we do not have new numbers for Pennsylvania’ Latinas, we know that last year the pay gap was 57%. If the wage gap were eliminated a working Latina woman would have enough money on average to purchase 29.5 additional months of child care, 25.8 additional months of rent and 1.6 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university.
President Bob Morris thanked Peggy for her informative presentation.