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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2014 02:23 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Violence prevention initiatives
On January 29, 2013 the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 6, which I introduced, directing the Joint State Government Commission “to study the issue of violence prevention, to establish an advisory committee to conduct a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of violent crime, including mass shootings, and to report to the Senate with its findings and recommendations.” In December 2013 the Joint State Government Commission released its report entitled “Violence Prevention in Pennsylvania: Report of the Advisory Committee on Violence Prevention.” The 300-page report made 44 recommendations in the areas of media coverage of violent incidents; mental health; gun ownership; and school safety.

I plan to re-introduce legislation based on many of the recommendations in the report. I will be introducing three bills. The first bill will incorporate the school safety provisions of the report; the second bill will address mental health issues; and the third bill will recodify the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act. These three bills should serve as the foundation for further legislative debate and action in the coming months on the issue of violence prevention.

Document #1

Introduced as SB630

Description: Bill #1 (SB1469 of last session)
This bill amends the Public School Code of 1949 to incorporate into the law several of the advisory committee’s recommendations to improve school safety.  The bill requires schools to undergo annual safety assessment audits for purposes of the school’s safety plan.  The safety plan must address violence prevention, crisis intervention, emergency response and management, including communications within the school district and with law enforcement and emergency responders.  Each school must have a threat assessment and crisis response team in place.  As stated in the report, students, teachers and administrators must participate in “safety drills that address various risks, including active threats, terrorism, explosives and other scenarios.”
According to the report, the Department of Education’s “Office of Safe Schools makes targeted grants to school entities to fund programs that address school violence.  Sixty percent of the money allocated to the Department of Education for targeted grants is to be used to pay the costs associated with the training and compensation of school resource officers and school police officers.”  Currently, the law gives priority in grant funding to schools designated as persistently dangerous and with the greatest need to establish safety and order.
The report noted that there are “school buildings located 30-40 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement entity” and where the response time is so long, having “a school police resource officer on site becomes very important.”  Therefore, the bill also gives a priority for grant funding to schools located more than 15 minutes from the nearest law enforcement agency to make it more likely that these schools will be able to hire school police resource officers.

Document #2

Description: * CANCELLED *

Document #3

Introduced as SB632

Description: Bill #3 (SB1471 of last session)
This bill re-codifies the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995 (PUFA).  The violence prevention report noted that “Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act contained in Chapter 61 of Title 18 is difficult to read and contains overlapping and confusing provisions” and the advisory committee recommended that the PUFA “should be repealed and re-written in a clear, concise manner that allows a layperson to more easily find and understand current law.”
While the advisory committee also made substantive recommendations to change the PUFA such as requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, I have chosen to introduce the legislation without the substantive changes so that it only clarifies and updates the law.  The bill repeals the PUFA in Chapter 61.  The provisions of Chapter 61 are reenacted with the updates and clarifications as Chapter 62 of Title 18, to be known as the Pennsylvania Firearms Act.
By itself, the legislation provides Pennsylvania with a firearms statute that is easier to understand.  The use of a consistent style and common definitions for words and phrases will make the law more readable.  In addition, the bill serves as an excellent framework to discuss whether substantive changes should be made to Pennsylvania’s firearms law including those set forth in the report’s recommendations.