Slippery Rock borough and township residents gathered at the municipal building on Wednesday evening to ask questions to their local state representative.
Aaron Bernstine is the representative for Pennsylvania’s 10th District and has held that position since being elected in the fall of 2016. Bernstine came to Slippery Rock as part of his town hall tour, having held 19 such meetings across the district since he joined office.
“A lot of people in public office undergo this change where they don’t want to engage with their constituents,” Bernstine said. “That lack of transparency is what I hope to avoid with sessions like these. I try to come out and talk about what we’re doing and what legislation I’m trying to introduce in Harrisburg.”
Bernstine fielded questions on a wide variety of issues, most notably gun violence and how to best prepare for active shooter situations on school campuses.
A strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Bernstine said that he believes that the best way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
“Gun free zones make innocent people sitting ducks,” Bernstine said. “I object to legislation that infringes upon people’s Second Amendment right. Renegade thugs turn our schools into war zones. You’re out of your mind if you think a cop at the door is enough to stop an active shooter.”
Slippery Rock student Matt Hemmerlin asked Bernstine about the possibility of concealed carry on school campuses. Hemmerlin is an education major and expressed that he felt his rights were being violated by not having the opportunity to protect his future students in the event of a crisis.
Bernstine responded by saying that he does not view the issue as whether or not teachers should be granted guns, but that teacher’s right to carry has been taken from them.
“Teachers need to have their rights given back to them in order to adequately protect our schools,” Bernstine said.
A new piece of legislation created a $30 million fund that schools districts in the Commonwealth can pull from and use at their discretion in order to improve security.
State-affiliated universities like Penn State and Pitt receive in total $850 million in funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania according to Bernstine. He said that state-owned universities (PASSHE schools) are held to higher standards that state-affiliated universities are not subjected to.
“This discrepancy is not fair to college towns like Slippery Rock,” Bernstine said. “State-affiliated universities are not held to the standards set by the PA Ethics Code. You as an employee cannot benefit from decisions made on behalf of the university if you’re an employee for a state-owned university. This is not the case for state-affiliated schools.”
Bernstine said that he is working to change that standard and hold state-affiliated universities more accountable.
College-aged students have historically stayed home on election day, a trend that Bernstine said that he hopes to reverse. Bernstine said that he is encouraged by the recent engagement that he has seen from younger voters in the 10th District.
“I have encountered numerous young people, for and against me, who are eager to get involved in the process,” Bernstine said. “People bled and died in order to ensure our right to vote, so I hope to see more and more college students turn out on election day.”
Midterm elections are on Nov. 6, with the deadline for Slippery Rock students to register in Butler County set for Oct. 9.