The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Breaking News

Local News

March 22, 2014

Gun background check bill abandoned in committee

HARRISBURG — Gun control groups are claiming victory after a House committee quietly pulled a bill that critics said would weaken Pennsylvania’s background check system for gun purchases, but the battle is likely not over.

“We do consider this a victory, but I don’t view it as dead and gone,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA, one of the groups that mobilized a campaign late last week to besiege lawmakers with calls opposing the background check bill.

The bill’s author, Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Westmoreland County, said he hopes to have it before the committee again soon. Krieger said he’s focused on eliminating duplication between background checks – one federal and one state – that all gun buyers must pass.

In Pennsylvania, state police do both checks. Krieger says the two are duplicative, even though the state check includes records for juvenile crimes and protection from abuse orders not required by the federal check.

State police checked more than 1 million gun buyers last year. Of those, 11,000 were denied. State police say they don't track how many were denied because of records searched because of the state law and how many were from records searched under federal law.

Krieger said state police ought to be able to load records required by Pennsylvania law into a national database so they’re available without doing two separate checks. State police began doing just that with mental health records in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“The intent is not to water down the background checks,” he said.

State police have expressed concern about the measure, arguing that the two checks are complementary, not duplicative. State police spokeswoman Maria Finn said officials are still talking to their federal counterparts about how many state records can be added into the national database.

Gun-control advocates say they’re concerned that anything not required by federal law and added voluntarily by the state could be quietly abandoned.

Krieger said the bill wasn’t put to a vote before the judiciary committee this week while lawmakers and the state police iron out what state records can be added to the national database.

Krieger said frustration over poor customer service inspired the bill. Dealers report waiting for long periods for background checks to clear, he said.

State police counter by citing a 2012 study that found 96 percent of dealers contacted were satisfied with the background check system. The survey found 70 percent of checks take less than 4 minutes. Of calls requiring an operator, 92 percent were completed in less than 10 minutes.

The national database is fully automated. For the state check, a state police employee does a manual check if the buyer is flagged for any reason.

Problems seem to arise when there’s a rush and operators get multiple requests – especially during large gun shows, said John Margel, who owns High Velocity Firearms, a gun shop in Selinsgrove.

“You can be on hold for 15 minutes, up to an hour,” Margel said. “I’d rather see (the state check) go.”

Margel said few people who are barred from purchasing a gun will bother trying to legally buy one from a gun shop.

However, there have been times when people with criminal records wandered into his store looking for a firearm, he said.

“I had one guy get denied and he said, ‘Oh, that must have been because I stole that car,’ ” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • Doss: Public has right to know

    A major part of Farrell council’s work session Monday was spent deciding whether or not to inform the audience about an unofficial police proposal from the City of Sharon.

    July 30, 2014

  • Budget falling short despite tax hike

    Farrell residents may have seen an income tax increase this year, but the city isn’t seeing the extra dollars City Manager Michael Ceci budgeted for.

    July 30, 2014

  • oakwood graves 1 Resting together

    Visitors to Oakwood Cemetery would see many  familiar local names if they looked down the hillside to the left just inside the gate on Sharon’s North Oakland Avenue.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Police: Kids in car were OK

    The mother of two young children was drunk and passed out when police found them all in a car parked along a city street, Sharon police said.

    July 29, 2014

  • To talk – or not – about police

    The mysterious agenda item, “No. 10,” at Farrell’s council meeting Monday became the center of a heated workshop and business session.

    July 29, 2014

  • Community thanks its first-responders

    Sharpsville honored its emergency responders Sunday at an event that included Mertz Towers residents as special guests.

    July 28, 2014

  • Drilling boom challenges state inspectors

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 28, 2014

  • Kidds Mill Covered Bridge A span of time

    Four generations of the Cadman family have enjoyed the Kidds Mill Covered Bridge, which is in Pymatuning Township near where the family’s ancestral farm is located.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • Intruder hurts woman, takes $5

    A home invasion in Hermitage Friday night sent an elderly woman to the hospital and netted the robber $5.

    July 27, 2014

  • national night out March against crime set for Aug. 5

    At the last Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission meeting, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. presented the number of incidents for each of the four communities in May.

    Farrell topped out at 819.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • high street trail Peaceful pathways

    History buffs and picnickers in the Shenango Valley won’t have to drive to Sharpsville to hang out at the old Erie Canal extension lock. They’ll soon have the option to walk or roll in on bicycles and even powered chairs to visit Canal Park near the outflow of Shenango Dam.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • balloonquest1 Balloon Quest celebrates 25 years

    Today is the final day of the 25th annual Western Pennsylvania Balloon Quest at Scotland Meadows Park.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from July 26, 2014

    Man faces bomb threat charges

    June building tops $4 million in Hermitage

    July 26, 2014

  • Elderly man survives plane crash

    An elderly man survived wrecking his plane into a bank, then landing into a wetland, about 200 feet south of Runway 28 at Grove City Regional Airport in Springfield Township on Friday.

    July 26, 2014

  • Dontae Rashad Pinkins Man arrested for April gunfight

    Federal marshals and local police arrested Dontae Rashad Pinkins Thursday on a warrant accusing him of involvement in an April gunfight with another man in a Sharon alley.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo