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Failed bump stock ban still on legislative agenda

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(The Center Square) – Two bills aimed at tightening up Pennsylvania’s gun laws failed to pass by the narrowest of margins earlier this month, but House leadership vows to continue efforts to advance legislation they say will reduce violent crimes involving firearms.

Each bill missed the required 102 votes to pass by just one, and all Democrats supported the bills except for Rep. Frank Burns, D-Johnstown. He didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

House Bill 335 defines accelerated trigger activators, or bump stocks, as “a part or combination of parts” that make a semi-automatic weapon – which requires a trigger pull each time a round is fired – perform like a machine gun, which does not.

In 2019, the federal government criminalized bump stocks in the wake of a Las Vegas outdoor concert shooting that left 60 people dead and wounded over 400 others. Fourteen weapons confiscated from the gunman’s hotel room were reportedly equipped with the devices.

Republicans say passing such a bill duplicates federal law, but Democrats claim it is not enough to prosecute offenders in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2206 would require firearm retailers to submit electronic records of sale to the Pennsylvania State Police, rather than by mail, as they do currently.

Supporters argue this will improve law enforcement’s ability to trace firearms used in crimes, thereby enhancing protection for both officers and communities. They also assert it will reduce administrative burdens on state police.

Critics of the bill have concerns over gun owners’ personal information and say it violates their constitutional rights.

In a statement following the vote, Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsatawney, said the bill effectively mandates another firearm registry, giving the Commonwealth the ability to request whatever information it wants at the point of sale, “then uploading that into a massive database at the fingertips of the Pennsylvania State Police.”

He stressed that he does not think either the state government or police have any ill intent, but he will not support any unnecessary legislation that negatively affects law-abiding Pennsylvanians.

Additionally, he said the bill will not stop criminals who mean harm since they don’t fill out background checks and go through licensed gun retailers before committing gun violence.

Nicole Reigleman, spokesperson House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, told The Center Square via email that advancing measures to reduce gun violence in our communities takes time. She said the House has already taken action this session “to pass three commonsense bipartisan gun safety bills that the Senate refuses to consider.”

The bills in question would require background checks for all firearms, regardless of barrel length, create a legal framework for extreme protection orders, or “red flag” laws, and provide grant funding to communities for installing lighting and security cameras around schools, playgrounds, community centers, and high-crime areas.

The statement said, “Senate inaction won’t stop the House as long as Pennsylvanians continue to lose their lives, and families and communities continue to be devastated.

“The Pennsylvania House will continue to work to get dangerous weapons off of our streets and out of the hands of people who are at risk of hurting themselves and others.”