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State Senator Pushes Stricter Handgun Licensing Legislation

Pennsylvania Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) called on fellow legislators last week to harness the heartbreak and outrage that followed the recent San Bernardino attack and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting anniversary to support his handgun licensing legislation.

Nothing has been done to address the underlying access to guns, he said.

“Nothing," he said. "Nothing to respond to the killing of innocent children and adults: be it in schools, offices, movies, neighborhoods, walking up and down the street.”

Haywood introduced Senate Bill 1029 in Harrisburg in October. His bill, currently awaiting action by the judiciary committee, would require legal gun purchasers to apply for a license at a law-enforcement agency, complete fingerprint-based background checks and undergo gun safety training.

“This is all designed to discourage straw purchases," he said, or illegally buying guns for someone else.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court upheld a nearly six- to 12-year sentence for a Chester woman convicted of illegally buying firearms for her felon boyfriend. It was the first use of a Pennsylvania law that took effect in 2013 that calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for a defendant convicted of straw gun purchases.

The state of Connecticut passed a similar law in 1995. According to a study from the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University, gun-related homicide fell by 40 percent between 1995 and 2005.

“This legislation has worked; it’s been proven to reduce the number of people who buy these guns and then hand them over to criminals,” he said. “So I’m very happy to introduce it as a way to reduce gun violence in Pennsylvania.”

Haywood said his goal for his legislation is simple: “Keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”