Gun progress: Finally a firearms bill that doesn't scare lawmakers
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It has long seemed that pigs would fly before the state Legislature passed a sensible bill on lost and stolen guns and the governor signed it. Of course, if pigs did fly, someone from the National Rifle Association would try to shoot them down.
But the seemingly impossible has happened and the NRA unsuccessfully did try to spoil the bill by having loyal lawmakers add amendments. House Bill 898 passed the Senate 49-0 earlier this month and on Thursday Gov. Tom Corbett signed it. Tragically, it took a dead police officer to make it happen.
This law should put pressure on those who attempt "straw purchases" -- the sale of guns by a person entitled to have them to a criminal who is not. The trouble for law enforcement has been that, if police subsequently find the guns were used in committing a crime, the seller can use the excuse that the guns were lost or stolen.
But HB 898 is not the much-discussed statute that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to the authorities or risk being penalized. What this measure does instead is change existing law so that a mandatory five-year prison term for repeat straw purchase offenders can be applied to multiple concurrent offenses.
The bill passed the House 186-10 in April last year, but the Senate took action only after the arrest of a straw purchaser who allegedly provided nine guns to a convicted felon who in September shot to death Officer Bradley Fox from Plymouth Township, outside Philadelphia. Belated as it was, the Legislature did the right thing, as did Mr. Corbett, despite the fact that neither the General Assembly nor the governor has previously been inclined to be sensible about firearms.
But let's not be carried away with congratulations. The bill that passed and the bill that languished on lost-and-stolen firearms are complementary. This is half a loaf and certainly not an excuse for lawmakers to sit around next session and do nothing further. It's not too much to ask law-abiding gun owners -- and certainly it does not infringe on their Second Amendment rights -- to be responsible and report missing firearms.
First Published October 27, 2012 12:00 am