Bill Would Require Five-Year Mandatory Minimum upon Conviction for Multiple Purchases at One Time

HARRISBURG, May 3, 2011 – Senator Larry Farnese today announced that he has introduced legislation to reinstate the mandatory sentencing provision for straw purchases of multiple firearms.

“A person convicted of multiple purchases must be held accountable for those multiple purchases,” said Senator Farnese.  “This is common sense and holds straw purchasers properly accountable for their crimes.  A five-year mandatory minimum may also serve as a deterrent for those who would otherwise engage in straw purchasing.”

Senator Farnese introduced this legislation at the request of the Gun violence Task Force.

Current law provides that a second or subsequent violation of section 6111 shall be punishable by a mandatory sentence of imprisonment of five years (18 Pa. C.S. 6111 (h)(1).

However, the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Commonwealth v. Jarowecki, decided December 30, 2009, ruled that identical language in a child pornography statute required that for this type of mandatory provision to apply, the second offense must have been committed after conviction for the first offense.

Because straw purchasers must have clean background checks in order to buy the guns in the first place, the court’s interpretation of this language for child pornography violations makes little sense when considered for straw purchasing violations.

Simply put, since a person convicted of straw purchasing would fail a subsequent background check and be unable to straw purchase a second time, the language must be changed.

This could not have been the legislative intent of 6111(h).

Senate Bill 1028 proposes that language presently contained in the drug-mandatory statute, (18 Pa.C.S. 7508 (a), which has been upheld by the courts and recognized as valid in Jarowecki, be added to current law (18 Pa.C.S. 6111 (h) (1).

The new language would require that a person who at the time of sentencing has been convicted of another offense under this section shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years.  For purposes of this subsection, a person shall be deemed to have been convicted of an offense under this section whether or not judgment of sentence has been imposed for that violation.

Senate Bill 1028 was referred to Judiciary May 2.