Pa. Senate OKs bill to toughen gun laws in domestic cases

Bill co-sponsored by Berks state Sen. Judy Schwank

HARRIBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Senate has given its unanimous approval to a bill to force people with a domestic violence ruling against them to more quickly give up their firearms.

The Senate's 50-0 vote Wednesday sends the Bill 501 to the House.

Under the bill, people convicted of a domestic violence crime would have 48 hours to give up their firearms to a law enforcement agency, a federally licensed firearms dealer or their lawyer.

"From the time it comes into enforcement, it will definitely save lives of women and children at risk of domestic violence," said Berks County state Sen. Judy Schwank, a co-sponsor of the bill. "This bill will go a long way in our fight to keep men, women and children safe from domestic violence."

Under current law, people convicted of domestic violence have 60 days and can give their guns to a relative, friend or neighbor.

In addition, defendants in final protection-from-abuse cases would have to hand over their guns in 24 hours. Current law leaves forfeiture to a judge's discretion.

"Today marks tremendous progress for lifesaving legislation that will protect Pennsylvania families and law enforcement," said Deb Marteslo, volunteer leader with the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "We applaud state senators for doing the right thing and passing this bipartisan bill unanimously."

Failing to hand over a firearm would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison.

The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

"No one should have to live in fear of an abuser with a gun," Marteslo said. "It's now up to the members of the Pennsylvania House to listen to the district attorneys, police chiefs, mayors, gun owners, and domestic violence survivors who all overwhelmingly support this crucial legislation that would protect Pennsylvania families."

If approved by the House, the bill would become law 180 days after being signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

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