April 8, 2008 |

House advances anti-violence bills

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Pittsburgh, reported there has been progress on two fronts in Harrisburg on addressing violence.

While the House failed last week to adopt an amendment intended to make it harder for criminals to get guns, Mr. Wheatley said the recorded vote on the House floor was the first in recent memory for a common-sense handgun proposal. The legislation would have closed a loophole that allows people with clean records to claim their guns were lost or stolen when they sold or gave the guns to criminals who cannot obtain guns legally. Current state law lacks a requirement to notify police when guns are lost or stolen.

“While we did not get the 102 votes needed to adopt this amendment the first time, we did win 75 votes in the face of strong opposition, and we did win votes on other amendments that would make a difference. We forced the issue and the discussion, and we have laid a strong foundation from which to build on. We will be back because the issue of gun violence is real and it affects communities across Pennsylvania,” Mr. Wheatley said.

Mr. Wheatley said the House did adopt amendments that would:

• increase the penalty for making a false report to law enforcement involving the loss or theft of a firearm, and make gun-related false-reporting convictions a disqualification for gun ownership; and

• require the Pennsylvania State Police to maintain a database of all guns reported lost or stolen in the state.

The amendments were added to a bill that would increase the penalties for possession of a firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number. That bill (H.B. 1845) is now ready for a final House vote as early as next week.

Mr. Wheatley said the other sign of progress is that House members agreed last Wednesday to advance four anti-violence bills for a final vote as early as this week. House Bills 4 through 7 would bring much-needed relief to county jail overcrowding and increase safety by sending violent offenders away to state prison.

“This package of legislation also would allow more non-violent offenders to enter rehabilitation programs that have been shown to reduce the odds of participants returning to a life of crime. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on more prisons that we may not need, we can give second chances to people most likely to benefit from them,” Mr. Wheatley said.

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