School Shooting in Red Lion, PA Points to Need for Strengthening Handgun Laws 4/25/2003

Press Release

CeaseFire PA

111 South Independence Mall East

Philadelphia, PA 19106

Phone: (215) 923-3151

Philadelphia, PA - According to news reports, a student at Red Lion Area Junior High School, about 30 miles southeast of the state capitol of Harrisburg, today (Thursday) brought several handguns to school and shot and killed both the school’s principal and himself. This is the second school shooting in the United States in the past two weeks, as a student was shot and killed in a high school gymnasium in New Orleans last week.

Bryan Miller, Executive Director of CeaseFire PA, the statewide coalition of groups and individuals devoted to reducing gun violence, said: "Our hearts go out to the families of Red Lion, who will be affected for the rest of their lives by this avoidable tragedy. All of the students, teachers, administrators and their families have our sincere condolences."

"Sadly, school shootings have become all too familiar in the United States," said Miller, "but they needn’t be. These avoidable incidents don’t happen in other developed countries, where handguns are not readily available for disturbed teens to take to school to threaten or harm students or adults, like occurred today in Red Lion."

Diane Edbril, Associate Director of CeaseFire PA added: "Why do Pennsylvanians accept a system of weak state gun laws that allow disturbed teens ease of access to multiple handguns, such that today’s shooter was reported to have several handguns in his possession? Wouldn’t it be better and safer to improve the Commonwealth’s laws to restrict teens’ access to handguns and so avoid such horrific incidents?"

Edbril cited laws in other states that encourage safe storage of handguns by holding parents responsible for gun violence perpetrated by minors with the parents’ guns, as well as a law in New Jersey that will require, in the not-distant future, that all new handguns include childproofing technology that will deny their use to anyone but adult authorized users.

Miller continued: "We don’t know where the handguns used in Red Lion today were acquired by the teen shooter, but we do know that such prohibited purchasers can obtain handguns too easily through illegal street sales. The illegal market for handguns devastates Pennsylvania. We can drastically reduce the illegal market by disrupting straw purchases of multiple handguns through passage of CeaseFire PA’s Handgun Trafficking Reduction Act."

Edbril also noted that gun murder-suicides like this morning’s are frighteningly familiar in Pennsylvania. She pointed to a national study of murder-suicides covering six months in 2001, during which Pennsylvania was one of only sevens state that had more than ten murder-suicides, almost all with guns. The study, entitled American Roulette: The Untold Story of Murder-Suicide in the United States ( was completed by the Violence Policy Center.

For more information, please contact Bryan Miller at (215) 518-3140 (cell).