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Politics & Government

State Senate Goes After Go Between Gun Buyers

The state Senate has unanimously passed legislation that makes it a crime to buy guns for people who cannot legally obtain them, a practice known as "straw purchasing."

House Bill 898 would create a five to ten year sentence for anyone who has been convicted previously of making a “straw purchase.” The bill now heads to the governor's desk.

Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) anticipates the Governor to will sign the measure.

“The only thing that matters is that this bill gets passed, and that it gets signed into law,” Farnese said.

While it is currently illegal to obtain a firearm through one of these purchases, there is no penalty against the middleman who actually purchases the gun on behalf of the person who can't legally buy firearms.

There are 30 municipalities, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania that have “lost gun” ordinances; pieces of legislation intended to go after those middlemen purchasing guns for others, by requiring them to report the guns as lost or stolen within 48 hours of discovery of their disappearance.  However, there have been no prosecutions in any of those 30 municipalities for violation of those ordinances.

Straw purchasing drew state lawmakers’ attention in September after authorities determined the gun used to kill Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox had been illegally purchased.

Prior to this shooting, few, including Farnese, believed a bill like this would ever be passed.

“There are many, many people, including a former governor, who believed that we would ever get here,” Farnese said. “That thought we would never put this type of legislation in place.”

Senator Anthony Williams (D-Delaware County) hopes this legislation will further the discussion and get people to talk about the bigger issue—illegal guns.

“This is a first step, not a completion step,” he said. “One that recognizes the Second Amendment is a right, and there is a standard by which we are allowed to have arms in this country.”