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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 5, 2018 02:08 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Firearms Registry
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to address public safety and gun ownership accountability through registration of firearms in the Commonwealth. Currently, the Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 61 Subch. A, does not require registration of all firearms.

With the rising epidemic of gun violence around the country, from city streets to movie theaters to elementary schools, we must consider commonsense regulations to keep guns out of the hands of those who would cause others harm. While some tragedies have resulted from the legal purchase of firearms, many more crimes are committed each day with stolen, lost or otherwise illegal guns. A registration law would provide for responsible ownership of firearms because it would make essential information available to law enforcement for purposes of tracing crime, as well as reduce illegal firearms sales by creating owner accountability. Studies demonstrate that the increased information derived from a registration system helps law enforcement to speed the tracing of guns used in crime and aids police in identifying the types of firearms to which an individual may have access.

Presently, firearms dealers must provide records of handgun sales and certain other firearms to the Firearms Division of the PA State Police (“PSP”). PSP maintains a permanent database of handgun sales only, and retains no record of long gun sales. In fact, the Uniform Firearms Act explicitly prohibits any law enforcement or government agency from creating or maintaining a registry of gun ownership. In its 2004 decision confirming that the PSP’s existing record of only handgun sales does not constitute a registry of firearms, the PA Supreme Court recognized the weaknesses of such a record: “[T]he database does not maintain a record of all firearms owned by Pennsylvanians, which would include long guns, or firearms that are owned by Pennsylvanians, but not purchased in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the database of handgun sales does not include handguns that are transferred between spouses, parents and children, and grandparents and grandchildren. See 18 Pa.C.S. §6111(c). Nor is the database a survey of existing ownership.” Allegheny County Sportsmens’ League v. Rendell, 860 A.2d 10 (Pa. 2004). A registry of firearm ownership would finally account for such transfers and firearms purchased out-of-state and carried into the Commonwealth, while providing law enforcement with important tracing information to combat crime.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact my office at 717-787-5970. Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB290