Firearm violence, and all violence, is a sad aspect of our society. Though tragic mass shootings splash on newscasts and newspapers, individual shootings rarely make the news as they once did, despite these kinds of shootings being more prevalent in our community. Any kind of firearm violence in which innocent individuals are needlessly slain is unacceptable. A single innocent person being killed should stir the same emotions as those invoked by a mass killing.
The sad reality is the majority of people who commit firearm crimes are usually connected to other criminal activity. To address firearm violence the House has taken steps to move legislation into law.
The House Judiciary Committee recently approved a bipartisan package of bills aimed at curbing firearm violence by going after those who commit the crimes – criminals – not law-abiding gunowners. This series of bills protects the right to bear arms, enshrined in the Second Amendment of our nation’s Constitution.
Included in the package is House Bill 1850
, which would reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders. House Bill 1851
would impose a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for felons who illegally possess firearms. House Bill 1852
would require judges to impose consecutive sentences for each victim of a violent crime on a person convicted of targeting multiple victims. This means, for example, if a criminal shot and killed three people and was convicted of all three murders, the criminal would serve the sentences back-to-back-to-back, rather than serving the sentence all at once. It is only right for a person convicted of such a heinous crime to actually do the time instead of being cut some slack by serving the sentences all at once.
The committee also approved House Bill 1835
, which seeks to amend the Uniform Firearms Act to allow for a 48-hour time period to relinquish a firearm after discharge from an involuntary mental health commitment. The current mandate is 60 days. The bill would also require the Pennsylvania State Police to send all records relevant for a determination of whether a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a mental health commitment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Pennsylvania already has some of the strongest background check laws in the country. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System the system used by firearm dealers to run background checks during the sale of a firearm, logged the sale or transfer of 415,075 firearms to law-abiding Pennsylvanians by or through licensed firearm dealers. In 2018, PICS logged 756,550 firearms sales/transfers. Therefore, firearm sales have nearly doubled while violent firearm offenses have dropped by 38% over the last decade.
Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is a key component to combating firearm violence and this is being done at the state level.
There has been talk of local municipalities, such as counties, cities, townships or boroughs, creating local ordinances to further restrict firearms. There are numerous reasons why I don’t believe this is the answer.
One of the issues I have is if local governments created their own gun control measures, a hodgepodge of regulations would be created. What would be legal in one borough could be illegal in the neighboring township. Naturally, this would lead to confusion for the legal gunowners, not to mention for police who would have to enforce the local laws.
To ensure there isn’t patchwork of local regulations, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1066
to reenact a measure to not allow local governments to pass local ordinances regarding fiream regulations. This bill may sound familiar because it was once a law, Act 192 of 2014
, to be exact. Unfortunately, the act was stricken as unconstitutional based on technical procedural rules, meaning that the substance of the legislation itself was never called into question.
As gunowner, and a supporter of our rights, I look forward to voting for the bills in the House. Simply put, these bills go after the offenders, not the overall population of gunowners who possess their firearms in a legal and responsible manner.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross