Registration Bill Would Penalize Lawful Gun Owners
6/29/2009
In the spring of 2007, my colleagues and I in the House led the fight to defeat a proposal that would have penalized law-abiding citizens who fail to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours.
           
An amendment was offered on the House floor that was a thinly disguised attempt to erode our constitutionally protected right to own firearms. Its stated intent was to crack down on “straw purchasing” – the illegal practice of transferring or selling firearms from a legal owner to someone who is not licensed to have handguns.
           
As many already know, there are laws already on the books that make straw purchases illegal, but enforcement of such laws has been extremely lax. Fortunately, we were able to defeat the measure by a vote of 128-75. The amendment was similar to House Bill 760 of the 2007-08 legislative session, which died in committee.
           
This unconstitutional measure has been reintroduced as House Bill 375 this year.
           
Rest assured, my colleagues and I will stand firm in our opposition to it during the 2009-10 legislative session, but we need your continued support.
           
As you may know, the major problem with the legislation is that many honest, well-intentioned people do not check on their firearms every 72 hours and might not realize for several days or more that their firearm has been stolen.
 
This proposal could penalize law-abiding citizens if a crime was committed by the thief who stole the gun, by branding the victim of the firearm theft as a criminal.
           
Opponents of this measure stood with me to defeat it last session, and we will do so again if it sees the light of day in the 2009-10 session.
           
In 2008, the Legislature passed House Bill 1845 (Act 131 of 2008), a proposal that created a Straw Purchase Preven­tion Education Program to crack down on perpetrators of real gun crimes. The law also strengthens penalties for the murder of a law enforcement officer. In addition, we inserted language protecting against the unlawful seizure of firearms during an emergency – often referred to as a “Katrina” amendment.
           
Finally, to assist military personnel deployed overseas, Act 131 extends their Pennsylvania license-to-carry permit for 90 days after their return. The law also allows a temporary emergency right to carry permit lasting 45 days.