House Passes Three Stephens Bills Addressing Gun Violence
HARRISBURG —Three bills sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to reduce gun violence have passed the House.

“My legislation focuses on those individuals who are not permitted to possess firearms because of felony convictions or adjudications,” Stephens said. “It also ensures those barred from possessing guns due to mental health issues are not able to purchase firearms in another state.”

Currently, a felon who is convicted of illegally possessing a firearm faces a second-degree felony and a maximum sentence of five to 10 years. House Bill 1496, which passed 187-8, would increase the grading for this offense to a first-degree felony to provide for a maximum possible punishment of 10 to 20 years.

“Felons who illegally possess firearms are a danger to everyone, and we should allow our judges to punish these offenders severely to better protect our communities,” Stephens said.

A second bill, House Bill 1497, which passed 193-2, addresses juvenile drug dealers ensuring they are barred from possessing firearms until age 30 or 15 years from their juvenile adjudication like other juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious crimes. The bill also increases the grading for illegally possessing a firearm in these circumstances from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a second-degree felony.

“These individuals are up to no good, killing innocent victims and destroying our communities,” Stephens said. “Anyone illegally carrying a firearm should be treated severely to remove them from our streets and to deter others who might think about illegally carrying a firearm.”

A third piece of legislation that also passed the House this week, House Bill 1498, which passed unanimously, would send all existing Pennsylvania mental health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) within 90 days.

NICS is used to check the background of individuals attempting to acquire a firearm nationwide. The bill would also require ongoing submissions to the national database within 72 hours of the state police receiving mental health data.

The federal government has enacted incentives for states to submit their mental health records to the national database which resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of records available.

According to a July 2012 U.S. Government Accountability Office Report, 200,000 mental health records were available in the national database in 2004 compared to 1.2 million in 2011.

“Not surprisingly, the number of people denied a request to purchase a firearm based upon a mental health prohibition increased almost 600 percent, from 365 to 2,124 during that period according to the same report,” Stephens said.

The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
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