(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Mike Doran)
Pennsylvania could become the latest state to require an eligibility license to purchase handguns if legislation introduced this week becomes law.
Senate Bill 1029, presented by Sen. Art Haywood on Monday, would require anyone wishing to purchase a handgun to first purchase an eligibility license. The licensee must reside in the state and be at least 18 years of age, have completed a firearms safety course within the last three years, and pass a fingerprint background check at a law enforcement office.
Law enforcement officers, as well as active and retired members of the armed forces, would be exempt from the requirement. In the current language of the bill, residents who already own handguns would have to comply with the legislation if it becomes law. However, Sen. Haywood’s communications director remarked that the senator would be willing to change the bill so that only new handgun purchasers must comply.
Haywood characterized the current laws as “unconscionably easy for dangerous Pennsylvanians to get their hands on deadly guns.”
“The ease of obtaining handguns, in particular, is having a brutal impact on our neighbors,” he added, “and legislators who do nothing to stop it are complicit in the killings.”
Pennsylvanians must already undergo a background check when purchasing firearms through a system called the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS). Last year PICS almost processed 900,000 background check requests. Of those, 354,603 were handgun purchases or transfers.
The fee for a license would be $50 and $30 to renew every five years.
Monday, of course, was the third anniversary of the horrific Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, and by introducing his legislation on this day Sen. Haywood intended to draw upon the emotions invoked by that tragedy.
Connecticut has since drastically stepped-up their gun control because of the shooting, and current laws also require the buyer to have a purchaser license. But none of these laws would have prevented Adam Lanza from committing the massacre as all of the firearms used were purchased by his mother, whom he also murdered.
The moral of the story is, of course, that gun laws don’t prevent criminals bent on destruction, and adding yet another layer of feel-good background checks that only law-abiding citizens would bother with doesn’t work.
Sen. Haywood still argues his legislation is not intended to punish responsible gun owners.
“As legislators and as community members, it is up to us to respond to gun violence with laws that save lives,” he said.
Other states that have similar eligibility licensing include the liberal paradises of Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia.