More News:

January 04, 2017

Bill aims to close gun loophole in Pennsylvania's domestic abuse law

A Pennsylvania lawmaker intends to introduce legislation this year to close a loophole in the state's domestic abuse law that allows defendants to relinquish guns to someone they know.

State Sen. Tom Killion, R-Delaware/Chester, introduced a memo on the first day of the new legislative session Tuesday seeking co-sponsorship for a bill that aims to "enhance safety" for parties involved in domestic abuse cases and Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders.

PFA orders can be filed against spouses and ex-spouses, sexual partners, children, parents and other relatives, and can order defendants to do a number of things, such as giving up a firearm.

Under the proposed law, defendants in PFA cases who are asked by the court to relinquish their firearms would no longer have the option to give their guns to a third party — like a friend or relative — for safekeeping. Instead, defendants would have to give their guns to a county sheriff, other law enforcement agency or a federal firearms licensed dealer.

In November, a report from the Joint State Government Commission recommended nixing the option of third-party safekeeping of firearms, identifying it as one of the "blind spots" in Pennsylvania's PFA laws.

Peg Dierkers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NewsWorks in December that the current law allows for abusers to use the "easy" access to their guns via the third party — or the threat of that easy access — to "continue to abuse and control the victim."

The proposed bill would also force defendants convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime to give their guns up within 24 hours instead of the current requirement of 60 days.

Killion said the language of the bill was carefully negotiated by the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence with various law enforcement agencies and gun ownership organizations.

The proposed law will be similar to a bill introduced last session by Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland. That bill never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.