from the inbox:
On Wednesday afternoon the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB 2331, with an overwhelming majority in support of the bill: 190 votes in favor to only 7 opposed. The bill now goes to the State Senate for consideration.
CeaseFirePA, the Pennsylvania Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, and statewide law enforcement associations including the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, weighed in heavily in support of the proposed legislation, while the National Rifle Association has remained silent.
“The passage of this bill in the House is a step in the right direction toward a Pennsylvania safer from gun violence,” said CeaseFirePA Executive Director Max Nacheman. “Legislators from both sides of this often polarized issue can all agree that criminals who use guns illegally are a major part of the problem, and deserve punishment for endangering Pennsylvania communities. From this common ground, it seems possible to tackle the greater challenge of gun violence prevention.”
Pennsylvania law currently establishes that an individual prohibited from firearm activity by Pennsylvania law, who commits a crime using a firearm, must serve a sentence of at least five years in jail. However, there is no similar requirement for an individual convicted of illegal firearm possession if no other crime was committed at the time, besides illegal possession of a firearm.
“When a felon or other prohibited person is caught with an illegal gun, it is only thanks to good police work and luck that he or she was apprehended before there was an opportunity to pull the trigger,” said Nacheman. “When law enforcement officers are able to apprehend a criminal carrying an illegal gun before they use it to maim or murder an innocent person, prosecutors should have the tools to pursue penalties that fit the severity of the threat to which the community was exposed.”
HB 2331 would establish a minimum penalty of five years in jail for any previously convicted felon found illegally in possession of a firearm or engaged in other prohibited firearm activity, whether or not the felon was committing another crime in addition illegal firearm possession or activity.
Further, HB 2331 would classify a second offense of unlawful firearm activity, by any person prohibited from firearm activity under Pennsylvania law, as a “crime of violence” and therefore subject to penalties of escalating severity for subsequent similar offenses. People prohibited from using firearms in Pennsylvania include individuals who have been convicted of aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, escape from prison, impersonating a police officer, fugitives, and false report of a missing firearm. For a complete list, visit www.CeaseFirePA.org/prohibited.
Now the bill must be considered by the Pennsylvania State Senate. While the bill faced little opposition in the House, concerns remain that the gun lobby, more concerned with their extreme political agenda than with public safety, may attempt to use HB 2331 as a vehicle for other proposals that have been denounced by municipal and law enforcement officials – such as creating special legal standing for the gun lobby to sue municipalities that have taken local action to crack down on illegal gun traffickers (based on HB 1523 and SB 1438), or prematurely eliminating the state background check system (based on HB 2127).
CeaseFirePA congratulates the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for taking a decisive stand against felons and other criminals who flout Pennsylvania law and continue to endanger communities by carrying, using, transferring guns illegally – and encourages the Pennsylvania Senate to take similar action by considering HB 2331 quickly and without distractions from unrelated amendments.