Our representatives in Harrisburg have a chance to make things safer for all Pennsylvanians. They can pass House Bill 1243, proposed by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, with an amendment by Rep. Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks, and close a dangerous loophole regarding the private sale of long guns — rifles, shotguns and military-style semi-automatic rifles.
Both law-abiding gun owners and gun violence prevention advocates can agree on this bill. Any gun sale from federally licensed dealers requires a background check. Pennsylvania already requires background checks for private sales of handguns. It doesn’t make sense that private sales of rifles, shotguns and military-style automatic weapons are exempt. It doesn’t make sense to allow people with criminal records, people with protection from abuse orders and people who are deemed mentally ill or have been involuntarily committed to purchase a gun. It also gives a course of action to restore gun rights to those who once suffered from mental illness.
HB 1243 strengthens the background check system and requires Pennsylvania to share its mental health records with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The Pennsylvania background check system blocked more than 9,000 prohibited purchases in 2012 alone. Background checks are supported by the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, including gun owners. A strong background check system makes Pennsylvania safer without burdening law-abiding gun owners.
This is an area where gun violence prevention advocates and law-abiding gun owners can come together. But our legislators still won’t bring it up for a vote. It’s time for our representatives to prioritize the safety of all Pennsylvanians.