Over his four years representing the 174th Legislative District, state Rep. Ed Neilson has served his constituents well.
One particular issue of importance to us is the welfare of the LGBTQ+ community. Through House Bill 950, which proposed the establishment of a grant program concerning the LGBTQ senior community and his statements and actions in support of nondiscrimination and marriage-equality bills, Neilson has proven himself to be an advocate for LGBTQ rights. His continued advocacy for the LGBTQ community over the years is heartening, and we appreciate his work.
Neilson is also taking an active stance in regard to firearms and safety. By sponsoring House Bill 49, which requires the training of current and future school security officers, Neilson has helped make our schools safer in the midst of an era defined by school shootings. His efforts to help reduce gun deaths by encouraging the purchase of gun safes and locks through House Bill 618 are commendable. However, Neilson’s stance on gun control and rights is still somewhat vague. We would like Neilson’s stance to be better defined, whether through legislative action or a public statement, but we are happy with his progress so far.
We believe that Neilson is passionate about preventing violence, and his commitment to safety is apparent. However, one of his recent efforts to combat violence through the taxation of mature-rated video games does not sit well with us. There are no compelling and verified connections between video games and violence, as stated in court in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. In this case, which overturned a 2005 California law that banned the sale of violent video games to children, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that “these studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.” We understand that Neilson’s position is not to completely ban such video games, but we believe that imposing a video game tax is unnecessary and provides no meaningful benefits. Rather, we would support a small tax on firearm purchases to go toward the same causes of school security.
We appreciate Neilson’s sponsorship of House Bill 475, which further provides for drug overdose response immunity. This protection of overdose victims is a step forward in providing these people with aid instead of condemnation: healing communities instead of tearing them apart. With Philadelphia being right at the front lines of the opioid crisis, we appreciate Neilson’s strides to put an end to it.
Neilson’s support of mandating public school CPR courses in Pennsylvania is another step forward for promoting a healthy commonwealth. His support for House Bill 686 makes us optimistic that the next generation of students will leave school with the ability to potentially save someone’s life.
We would like to thank Ed Neilson for his efforts to make Philadelphia and Pennsylvania a better place and for all the work he does for our community. We are thankful to have a representative who endorses the LGBTQ+ community and school safety and has made efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. While we wish Neilson would take a clearer stance on gun rights and reconsider the taxation of mature video games, we still believe that Neilson represents the 174th district well. ••
Daniel Yanko, Anjali John, and Caroline Ho are students at J.R. Masterman High School and residents of the 174th Legislative District.