If HB 898 was already law, the gun that killed Plymouth Township Police Officer Fox may have never found its way into the hands of a convicted felon
HARRISBURG–In what State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila.) called a victory for public safety, the Pennsylvania Senate in a 49 to 0 vote sent legislation (HB 898) that stiffens penalties for straw gun purchases one step closer to Governor Corbett’s desk.
“Advocates from across Pennsylvania have been fighting for years to strengthen our penalties for illegal straw gun purchases and today we sent a bill to the House,” said Farnese. “This is good legislation and I pledge to continue to do all I can to make our streets and communities free from gun violence and illegal guns.”
HB 898 mandates a five-year minimum sentence for any person convicted of making more than one illegal firearm transfer or sale. Last year, Sen. Farnese introduced SB 1028, a measure similar to HB 898, which was universally supported by the public safety and law enforcement communities.
As of today, anyone convicted of a straw purchase can be sentenced from zero to seven years in prison no matter the number of firearms purchased. And, because straw purchasers always have clean records, they typically receive a lenient sentence, no matter the number of illegal guns they purchase.
Over a period of four months in 2012, Michael Henry illegally bought nine guns for Andrew Thomas, a convicted felon who under Pennsylvania law is not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. This type of transaction, when a purchaser without a criminal record purchases a gun for someone convicted of a felony, is called a straw purchase.
On September 13, Thomas used one of his illegal guns to shoot and kill Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox. Thomas then committed suicide at the scene and Henry was arrested and charged with nine felonies for illegally buying firearms for another person.