Three gun-control bills now in the Pennsylvania legislature would close loopholes surrounding the illegal purchase, sale, and possession of firearms.
They were described yesterday at a news conference at Philadelphia Police Headquarters by State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.), who introduced the legislation in February. He was joined by District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross, State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D., Phila.-Montgomery), and State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson (D., Phila.).
The first bill would make it illegal for anyone charged with a felony, but not yet convicted, to buy, transfer, sell, or possess a firearm.
The second would prohibit anyone convicted of a felony drug offense as a juvenile from buying or owning a gun as an adult.
The third bill would require a mandatory one-year sentence for carrying a gun without a license. It was first introduced in 2007, but failed to move out of committee.
Farnese's announcement came less than a year after the National Rifle Association took City Council members to court for their attempt at gun-control legislation. Farnese and his supporters say they hope for the NRA's cooperation on the state level.
The proposed legislation "is going after illegal guns," Farnese said. "We are not going to be disturbing the rights of legal gun owners."
Abraham said she believed that only the third bill, requiring mandatory sentencing, would prove problematic with advocates of gun-owners' rights. Representatives of the District Attorney's Gun Violence Task Force worked with Farnese to develop the legislation.
At the news conference, 12 illegal firearms seized during police raids during the last year lay on a table behind the speakers. Ross held up one - a three-foot-long SKS semiautomatic rifle - to illustrate the need for tighter rules.
"There is no reason for anybody in the world to be carrying that around," he said.
Still, all of the politicians present acknowledged the difficulty they were likely to face in getting support from legislators outside Philadelphia.
Farnese said he took hope from the fact that two of the bills' co-sponsors were Democrats from other regions: Sen. Michael O'Pake of Reading and Sen. Wayne Fontana of Pittsburgh. The bills are also co-sponsored by Washington and Sen. Vincent Hughes, who also represents part of Philadelphia.