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July 12, 2014, 11:18 am

Gun law aimed at convicted felons passes house

Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have passed a bill that calls for stiffer penalties against previously convicted felons carrying illegal firearms.

House Bill 2331 would require a minimum five year sentence for any felon carrying a firearm, even if no new crime has been committed. Under Pennsylvania law, no previously incarcerated person can legally purchase, own or carry a firearm. In Philadelphia, which has had 137 murders this year; most of them committed by illegally obtained firearms, proponents of the measure think it will help reduce crime.

“This legislation targets the worst, most violent offenders who, by the nature of their repeated crimes, have shown no hope for rehabilitation. These are the guys prisons are made for,” said Republican state Rep. Todd Stephens in a press release. “We have an obligation to protect our citizens.”

Right now there is no minimum mandatory sentence.

On Wednesday the bill passed the House with a majority 190 votes in favor and 7 opposed, and has now gone to the Senate for approval. CeaseFirePA supported the legislation.

“The passage of this bill in the House is a step in the right direction toward a Pennsylvania safer from gun violence,” said CeaseFirePA Executive Director Max Nacheman in a press release. “Legislators from both sides of this often polarized issue can all agree that criminals who use guns illegally are a major part of the problem, and deserve punishment for endangering Pennsylvania communities. From this common ground, it seems possible to tackle the greater challenge of gun violence prevention.

“When a felon or other prohibited person is caught with an illegal gun, it is only thanks to good police work and luck that he or she was apprehended before there was an opportunity to pull the trigger. When law enforcement officers are able to apprehend a criminal carrying an illegal gun before they use it to maim or murder an innocent person, prosecutors should have the tools to pursue penalties that fit the severity of the threat to which the community was exposed.”