The bill, authored by State Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery), and voted out of a House committee in early May, has been lauded by the CeaseFirePA anti-gun-violence group as a “valuable tool to police and prosecutors to get dangerous gun criminals off the street.”
Beyond slapping the five-year minimum on convicted felons barred by current law from having a weapon, the bill would apply the more severe penalty to anyone prohibited by law from using, owning, or selling a gun.
Of course, lawmakers could do far more to discourage gun violence in Philadelphia and other urban communities across the state by enacting gun-trafficking safeguards, including monthly limits on handgun purchases, or making it mandatory to report lost or stolen weapons.
The reporting requirement would target so-called “straw buyers,” who buy weapons legally, and then sell them illegally to felons and others barred from owning a weapon.
So far, though, lawmakers have ignored the monthly gun limit and the reporting mandate. Not only that, there’s pending legislation that would punish Philadelphia and other municipalities for enacting their own tougher, local gun-safety laws.
Another pro-gun item calls for scrapping the state-run background checks meant to screen unstable gun buyers and defaulting to the less-comprehensive federal background-check system.
If Stephens’ bill were to be amended to include such NRA-inspired proposals, it could well end up making Pennsylvania communities even less safe.
A House floor vote was anticipated this week, but the fate of gun-control measures is never clear in Harrisburg. Lawmakers should listen to the citizens of Pennsylvania who support legislation that takes direct aim at gun violence.