Stephens’ Efforts to Prevent Gun Violence
I have long been committed to reforming our state’s gun laws to protect our families and ensure criminals who acquire or use illegal guns face tough sentencing.

Most recently, I introduced legislation to create Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Pennsylvania that would allow law enforcement and family members to request a court temporarily seize the guns of those who are a danger to themselves or others while protecting their due process rights. Under House Bill 2227, respondents would receive a full hearing where they may cross-examine witnesses, present their own witnesses or evidence and be represented by counsel. My legislation also would provide penalties for anyone lying to obtain an Extreme Risk Protection Order.

Over 60 percent of all firearms deaths are suicides and in a study of mass shootings from 2009-16, 42 percent of the attackers had shown warning signs of violent behavior. Notably, Duke University found that similar legislation in Connecticut prevented 76 suicides and this legislation is being considered in over 30 states.

Here is a video of my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee:



You can read my column on this here.  

Firearms Bills I Supported that Became Law:

Act 199 of 2012: Ensures repeat straw purchasers of firearms are held accountable for the crimes. 

Act 134 of 2016 (House Bill 1496): This law provides for greater penalties for felons who illegally possess firearms – especially for repeat offenders. 

Making State Police Properly Report

My efforts led to the Pennsylvania State Police reporting over 600,000 mental health records to the national background check database to ensure those prohibited from possessing a gun cannot purchase one out of state.

Other Firearms and School Safety Bills I Support/Supported:

2017-2018:

House Bill 2071: Workplace Violence Bill-- My legislation would authorize employers to voluntarily create workplace violence prevention policies and/or implement safeguards for their employees, including the installation of barriers, security systems and other measures, as long as those policies and safeguards are consistent with state and federal law. 

House Bill 2163: Metal Detectors in Schools-- This bill mandates that each of our Pennsylvania school buildings establish a primary school entrance that shall be equipped with a metal detector and at least one armed safety officer present at all times during school and after school activities. 

House Bill 2165: Safe Schools Advisory Committee-- This legislation would establish a 21-person commission, comprised of parents, teachers, school board members, school administrators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement. The committee would review laws, policies, and practices in place and make recommendations to reduce the probability of mass-casualty violence at schools in the future.

House Bill 2143: Safe Schools Officer Training-- This would require school-based police and security officers receive enhanced training to assist them with interacting with students, especially children with a mental health diagnosis, a disability, or those who suffer from trauma. 

House Bill 2150: Safe School Funding-- This legislation that would increase funding for the Safe Schools Targeted Grants program by $30 million, totaling approximately $38.5 million in overall funding. This proposal would include incremental increases with an eventual cap of $50 million, and would allow school entities to apply for the grant annually rather than biannually. This funding would continue to be purposed for the training and compensation of school resource officers and school police officers, as well as for funding programs or security-related equipment that would address school safety and violence.

House Bill 2223: Protecting Domestic Violence Victims-- This legislation would bolster protections for domestic violence victims by requiring any person convicted of domestic violence or against whom a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is granted to surrender all firearms, ammunition and firearms licenses to a county sheriff, a law enforcement agency, or to Federal Firearms Licensed dealer within 24 hours. 

House Bill 741: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws-- I introduced legislation to address constitutional issues the court found with Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws for those people who use guns to commit violent crimes. My bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

House Bill 1400: Requiring Background Checks-- This legislation would require all firearm sales, regardless of the barrel length, be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or county sheriff. Ultimately, this legislation would require background checks be conducted for each firearm purchase, which would ensure that individuals attempting to obtain a firearm are authorized to possess such weapons. Familial transfers would still be excluded from the background check requirement as in current law. 

House Bill 2292: Choke Point in New School Construction-- This legislation would require all new, approved school buildings and approved building renovations that receive reimbursement through PlanCon to be built with a “choke point.” A choke point is a single, secure point of entry through which all people must enter into the school building during school hours.

House Bill 1872: Bans Bump Stocks-- This legislation would ban “multi-burst trigger activators,” such as slide fire/bump stocks, like the one used in the Las Vegas shooting.

House Bill 2287: Safety Training for Teachers-- This bill will ensure that all teachers and staff across the commonwealth are properly and accurately trained when confronted with an emergency situation.

House Bill 1635: Creates the Offense of Access to Firearms by Minors-- It would require owners of firearms to store them securely if children are present. Failure to comply will result in criminal penalties.

House Resolution 784: Investigating School Violence-- This bill would create a Select Committee with the mandate of identifying and investigating issues related to these school shootings and making recommendations in a formal report to mitigate the risk of this happening again in Pennsylvania. From this report an appropriate legislative solution can emerge.

2015-2016:

House Bill 1091: Imposing Mandatory Minimums-- My bill would impose mandatory minimum five-year minimum sentence for felons who illegally possess firearms.

House Bill 1632: Restoring Mandatory Minimums-- My bill would restore mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes committed with firearms. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, invalidated many mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania, including those for criminals who commit violent crimes with firearms because our law permitted a judge rather than a jury to determine whether the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions applied in a particular case. This bill fixes that procedural issue.

House Bill 1497: Closing Loopholes-- This would close a loophole that makes it a misdemeanor for someone adjudicated of a disqualifying offense as a juvenile who subsequently carries an illegal firearm. It also would provide that juveniles adjudicated of felony drug-dealing charges who subsequently possess an illegal firearm be prohibited from carrying a firearm for 15 years or until they reach the age of 30, whichever is earlier.  

House Bill 1498: Mental Health Records-- This bill would require the Pennsylvania State Police to send all existing mental health data within 90 days to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS is utilized 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 Pennsylvania State Police receiving mental health data. The bill was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously last session.  

House Bill 44: Strengthening Mandatory Minimums--This legislation would add the requirement that the mandatory sentence be imposed consecutively to any other sentence imposed by the court; and it would prohibit concurrent sentences for such violent offenses. 

2013-2014:

House Bill 287: Toughening Sentences for Gun Offenders-- An Act amending Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms; and, in sentencing, further providing for sentences for second and subsequent offenses.

House Bill 1001: Closing Loopholes-- Another bill aimed at closing loopholes that prevent juvenile offenders from serving minimum sentences for illegally using guns. 

House Bill 931: Banning Gun Ownership from Offenders-- An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes in firearms and other dangerous articles further providing for persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms.  

House Bill 1243: Mental Health Records-- My first bill to require the state police submit mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in a timely manner. 

House Bill 1010: Background Checks--This would require background checks for all firearms purchases and 48-hour checks for gun shows.

House Bill 233: Mandatory Minimums-- This was an early bill to make sure mandatory minimums for gun offenses are implemented.

2011-2012:

House Bill 1963: Sentence Enhancement-- Would create sentence enhancements for gun offenses committed while the offender is on parole or probation.  

House Bill 401: More Sentence Enhancements-- Would provide for enhanced sentences for offenses committed with firearms.