Other Issues to Watch

In addition to our top agenda items, there are many other policy issues pending in the legislature and elsewhere. We continue to monitor them, want you to know about them now, and will encourage further action when they come to the forefront.  Here are some issues we think you should be aware of, and we’ll alert you when it’s time to take action.

Strengthening PFA Firearms Relinquishment Policy

Under current Pennsylvania law, when a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is issued and a judge requires a defendant to relinquish his/her firearms while the domestic violence allegations are being reviewed/prosecuted, those firearms need only be relinquished to any third party—a very dangerous idea, since the person relinquishing can choose to give his/her firearms to someone who would continue to give them access to these firearms. However, if a new bill being proposed by Senator Killion is passed, the defendant in a PFA case would be required to surrender the firearms to one of three parties: to the County Sheriff, an additional law enforcement agency, or a federally-licensed firearms dealer. Additionally–and very importantly–Sen. Killion’s bill would also require the person with the PFA to relinquish his/her firearms within 24 hours, rather than 60 days, of a Domestic Violence conviction. This is important legislation that needs to be passed to protect Pennsylvania citizens. Sen. Killion’s co-sponsorship memo can be found here; http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20170&cosponId=21693

Gun Violence Restraining Order

Although family and friends may be the first to notice early warning signs of a person in crisis, they have little recourse when lethal weapons are involved. We encourage legislators to introduce bills that would  rectify that problem by authorizing local courts to issue “firearm restraining orders” in this Commonwealth.

Following in the footsteps of states that have enacted similar laws to prevent gun violence, including Texas, Connecticut, California, and Indiana, the intent of this legislation is to provide a mechanism for families, friends, and others, to petition the court for a firearm restraining order when there is good cause to believe an individual poses an immediate threat to the safety of a family, household member, or other person by possessing or having a firearm, other weapon, or ammunition in his custody or control.

The term firearm restraining order is usually defined as “an order entered by the court…prohibiting a named person from having in his custody or control, purchasing, possessing or receiving any firearm or ammunition.”

Similar to a protection from abuse order authorized under Title 23 (Domestic Relations), a proposed bill would give certain persons–including law enforcement officers, family or household members–the authority to petition the court for a firearm restraining order enjoining the subject of the petition from having in his/her custody or control, purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm. Every firearm restraining order would be issued for a fixed period of time—not to exceed one year.

This legislation would additionally make mandatory the issuance of a firearm restraining order in conjunction with any protection from abuse order.

Firearm restraining orders would aid individuals, communities, and law enforcement in preventing suicides, homicides and mass shootings (as occurred in Connecticut, California, Colorado, South Carolina, and other jurisdictions) and enhance public safety. Please ask your state Rep to help us lead the fight for a gun violence restraining order.

 Other Key Issues

Limiting the Size of Magazines

The idea of this Bill would be to limit the size of ammunition magazines to 15.  Other states are adopting such limits, and we know that reducing the capacity of magazines has real effects. Large capacity magazines enable shooters to shoot many people, very quickly.  Limiting magazine capacity essentially requires shooters to change magazines more frequently.  This disrupts shooters’ actions, provides time for first responders to arrive, and gives people an opportunity to escape the shooter.  During the Tuscon, AZ shooting in 2011, the shooter was overpowered when he stopped to change magazines. Had magazine limits been in force to limit the size of his magazine, it is likely that he would have killed and injured many fewer than he did because he would have been forced to stop and try to change magazines sooner.

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  • For more information about large capacity magazines and why they are so dangerous, visit smartgunlaws.org

Child Access Prevention Policies

Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania does not have any child access prevention policies that penalize adults who give children unsupervised access to firearms.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not immune from the tragic consequences when children get access to their parents’ guns: every year there are accidents as well as criminal shootings by children who have found guns in and taken guns from their own homes.  Child access prevention laws have been shown to be effective at reducing unintentional firearm deaths among children. We will work to advance such policies in Pennsylvania.

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