Pennsylvania law precludes people with records of felonies, domestic
abuse or severe mental illness from owning firearms, which makes good
sense and is not controversial. But many state lawmakers who cower
before the gun lobby can’t bring themselves to enact a simple mechanism
to help enforce the law.
The records of most people who are prohibited from gun
ownership would show up in standard background checks conducted by
licensed gun dealers. But a foolish exemption in state law allows those
very same prospective buyers to avoid background checks if they buy
“long guns,” including assault-style, semi-automatic rifles most often
used in mass shootings, from private sellers.
Oddly, Pennsylvania law requires background checks for private
sales of handguns but not for long guns, one of just six states to do
A bill has been reintroduced in the state Legislature to apply
the same standard to both types of weapons, a step that has been taken
by 16 states in recent years.
The bill does not add any restrictions regarding ownership. It does not preclude anyone from legally owning a gun.