Pennsylvania: House Democrats Pass Gun Control Bills on Party Line Votes

Gun Rights

Who needs to work with the other side? For all their talk about unity, the heavy-handed Democrat leadership in the Pennsylvania House seems to be capable of at least one thing – forcing bad bills out of committee with the support of only Democrats. On Wednesday afternoon, the pattern continued in the House Judiciary Committee as the panel adopted five additional gun control bills. All of the votes were on 14-11 straight party line votes, again. 

These bills aren’t just bad if you are a Second Amendment supporter, they are poorly written and would make bad law, period. They are in such a rush to show their rabid anti-gun base that they are “doing something” that they do not care about the final product. One bill actually would have blocked the reporting of mental health records until 72 hours had passed and treatment was complete! Another bill would have prevented manufacturers from using state-of-the-art 3-D software. The committee passed the following bills:

HB 335 bans “accelerated trigger activators.” This legislation is apparently addressing what have commonly become known as “bump stocks,” but the bill does not specifically say that. Presumably, the language parlor game is being played because of recent federal court decisions with the Supreme Court expected to hear the case in the near future. 

HB 336 is a semi-auto ban. This bill would ban the future sale of some of the most popular firearms in common use. There was a federal ban from 1994-2004 which was not renewed.  A Department of Justice study following the ban concluded that the decade-long prohibition failed to demonstrate any kind of meaningful impact on crime. Recently, multiple lawsuits have been filed to overturn state semi-auto bans in the few states which have them. It is our view that those bans, like this bill, are unconstitutional under Bruen. If passed, this bill would represent the most widespread gun ban in state history and almost certainly trigger its own legal challenge. 

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HB 777 restricts unserialized firearms and privately made firearms, doing nothing more than punishing hobbyists. If you are a prohibited person, it is already a crime to possess a firearm, and it is a crime to transfer a gun to a person who is prohibited. 

HB 1157 attempts to expedite the reporting of mental health adjudications, commitments and treatment however, this bill is so poorly drafted it actually makes it unlawful to report mental health adjudications until 72 hours have passed. It would presumably also block reporting during ongoing treatment (until the treatment is “complete”). Mental health is a serious issue that should be addressed, unfortunately this bill does not do that, and it actually takes a step backwards.

HB 1190 bans 3D-printed firearms. This bill poorly defines what a 3D printed firearm actually is and includes firearm parts. It also bans software, which means that long established companies and traditional gun manufacturers who use technology to produce firearms may unwittingly be breaking the law.

Two other bills were on the agenda but did not advance. 

HB 483 creates a gun violence task force. The problem with these taxpayer-funded bureaucracies is that membership is stacked to arrive at a predetermined outcome and use state resources to perpetuate their narrative. 

HB 1859 expands the class of prohibiting offenses beyond existing state and federal law. We oppose any effort to expand prohibitors beyond current law.  Please keep in mind that federal and state law already prescribe what constitutes a “serious” offense, resulting in a lifetime gun ban. These offenses even go beyond just felonies to include certain classes of misdemeanors. A lifetime ban on a constitutional right is something that should be taken seriously.

In November, the committee had passed two other bills in the same fashion, HB 941 and HB 1629. Those bills would hold gun owners liable for having their property stolen and misused and would have forced gun owners to keep their firearms under lock and key, respectively. Thankfully, neither of those bills have advanced on the House floor.

In the Spring, they voted on four gun-control bills on the floor. Two of them passed, and one was defeated on the floor causing the fourth bill to be withdrawn. This is what happens when legislation is about politics and not about sound public policy. Most of this is for show. Some of the bills do not make it out of committee and some committee-passed bills will not even receive a House floor vote. It is clear that this charade is nothing more than politics. 

Nevertheless, NRA-ILA will continue to fight these infringements in Harrisburg every step of the way. In addition to battling these bills in the House, we have been diligently working with the Senate to make sure these bills do not advance in the other chamber. Please continue to follow these alerts for the latest updates.

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