Turn on the news, browse through social media or spend some time in the community and one has a good chance of hearing discussion regarding the latest proposal in the Pennsylvania State House regarding firearms –– the Firearm Registration Act.
State Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, voiced his strong opposition against the proposed measure and says the bill is unconstitutional.
If passed, the proposal would impose a statewide firearm registration and require all gun owners to register all firearms in their possession. In addition, the proposal would prohibit those convicted of a violent crime or a dangerous drug offense within the past five years from being able to register a firearm. Owners of firearms would also be required to submit to fingerprinting, a background check and a fee of $10 per firearm each year.
House Bill 768, or the Firearm Registration Act, was proposed on Friday by State Representatives Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia; Mary Isaacson, D-Philadelphia; and Mary Jo Daley, D-Narberth.
“What they’re proposing with a gun registry is unconstitutional,” Causer told The Era. “It’s unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment. It’s also unconstitutional under the PA Constitution; the state is not supposed to even question your right to bear arms. On top of that, they want to charge a fee every year for every firearm you own.”
Causer mentioned Article I, Section 21, of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”
Causer also said the proposal infringes on the rights of law abiding gun owners and that “criminals are not going to go through the process.”
“In my reading of the bill they did exempt antique and firearm for law enforcement officers,” he said, explaining the exceptions to the proposed bill.
Causer confirmed that he has received a large number of inquiries from constituents voicing their concerns on the matter.
“I have heard calls from a lot of people on this issue, and I have had a lot of people mention New York to me because of the SAFE Act they passed,” he said.
The N.Y. SAFE Act, known formally as the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, imposes gun regulation statewide.
The SAFE Act mandates universal background checks on gun purchases, imposes life in prison without parole for anyone who commits homicide against a first responder, increases penalties for those who use illegal guns and imposes what Gov. Andrew Cuomo describes as the “toughest assault weapons ban in the country.”
The law was passed by the New York’s State Legislature and was signed into law by Cuomo on January 15, 2013.
“I have had a lot of people ask me ‘please don’t let Pennsylvania turn into New York,’” said Causer, who believes that the State Legislature’s focus should be on keeping firearms away from criminals and those who are mentally ill. “People often want to focus on the gun, and it’s not the gun –– it’s the person. That’s where I think we need to enforce our existing laws. We simply do not need any more gun control.”
Current gun laws in Pennsylvania require residents to be at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun and 18 years old to purchase a long gun, although those at least 18 years old can possess a handgun as long as the gun was gifted to them. The state also allows those at least 18 years of age to open-carry a handgun but prohibits having a handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit –– which one must be at least 21 years old to apply for.
“When you take a look at who sponsored this bill, it’s all legislators from Philadelphia who are strong advocates for gun control,” Causer said. “Really, I think this would be a bipartisan rejection of the bill. There are Republicans and Democrats in legislature who would vote against it.”