A “Blue Lives Matter” bill is now in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania state representative is renewing his calls for the swift passage of a hate crime bill after the second high-profile shooting of police officers in two weeks.

Rep. Frank Burns, R-Cambria, introduced HB 2261 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 13, though Burns is urging lawmakers to push the bill through the General Assembly.

“As the daily news keeps proving, time is of the essence if we want to let people know that Pennsylvania won’t tolerate attacks on police officers,” Burns said in a release.

Burns’ bill, which he has referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter Bill,” would add “law enforcement officer” to the categories of people protected under Pennsylvania’s hate crime laws. Pennsylvania’s hate crime protections currently include race, color, religion or national origin.

A “law enforcement officer” is defined in the bill as:

“A person who by virtue of his office or public employment is vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests for offenses, whether that duty extends to all offenses or is limited to specific offenses, or any person on active State duty… The term includes a corrections officer, a parole agent and a member of a park police department in a county of the third class.”

Six Republicans and five Democrats co-signed the bill, including Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny.

HB 2261 comes after two weeks of high-profile fatal attacks on police officers. Five police officers were killed and 11 were wounded when a man fired on police in Dallas on July 7, minutes after a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.

On July 17, three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Police say the motives for the attack are still unclear, but many believe the killings were a targeted attack against police officers.

Both of the shooters in these events were black, and both served in the armed forces. As well, both shooters died at the scene of the crime.

Since then, the targeted killings of law enforcement officials has become a national hot topic, gaining prominence at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland this week. Keynote speaker and former mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani began his speech Monday night at the RNC on the topic of law enforcement shootings.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke also spoke at the event and opened his speech by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to make something very clear. Blue lives matter in America.”

Clarke recently wrote an editorial for The Hill in which he called the killing of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge “guerilla urban warfare against the police” and dubbed Black Lives Matter as “the enemy.”

Burns said his bill was being worked on weeks before the attacks on police officers took place. If signed into law, Pennsylvania would be the second state in America to have such a law. Louisiana signed a bill into law adding police officers to the protected hate crime list in late May.

Reach Iain Oldman at ioldman@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @iainoldman.