PEOPLE WHO BUY guns and then hand them over to criminals could soon face a mandatory five-year prison sentence, thanks to a bill passed unanimously by the state Senate Wednesday.
The bill would create a five-to-10-year sentence for any offender convicted of making multiple "straw purchases" of guns. It passed overwhelmingly in the state House last year and now goes to Gov. Corbett, who is expected to sign it into law.
Straw purchasing - buying a gun for a person who can't legally buy one because of a criminal record - drew attention last month after authorities determined that the gun used to kill Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox had been illegally purchased. The man who officials say bought that gun is accused of buying eight others for the cop's alleged shooter, Andrew Thomas, in a four-month period.
In Philadelphia, guns were used to commit more than 80 percent of the city's homicides in 2011, and more than 3,000 illegal guns were recovered by police during the same time period, according to the District Attorney's Office.
District Attorney Seth Williams praised the bill, citing examples of three straw-purchasers in Philadelphia who put 16 guns on city streets.
"While they may not have pulled the trigger or committed crimes of violence themselves, they are just as responsible as the criminals breaking the law with those guns," Williams said in a statement.
- Associated Press contributed to this report.