After listening to many of the questions raised during the first week of state budget hearings in Harrisburg, I now better understand why there is so much confusion and debate over gun ownership.
One of the first questions offered involved background checks. One representative asked that with 40 percent of gun transfers exempt from background checks, how could we be assured that gun owners were lawful owners? Luckily, the state police commissioner rightfully challenged the 40 percent statistic on the basis that he never heard of such a figure.
The truth is this: Every person who buys a handgun in Pennsylvania must go through the background check. Even if one neighbor sells his handgun to another neighbor, he is required to process that transaction through a dealer and submit to a background check.
Every long gun bought at a dealership must pass a background check. This includes weapons purchased at gun shows and gun bashes.
The only exception is shotguns or rifles transferred between private parties or immediate family. This is a small amount of transactions.
Another question raised came after the commissioner mentioned that of the roughly 500 homicides in Pennsylvania last year, only 23 were committed with rifles. All the rest involved handguns, so banning AR-15 lookalike weapons does not address the problem. How many of those homicides were committed with illegal guns? The state police only maintain data on the cases they investigated, which were around 60, but they promised to check.
Unfortunately, that question doesn’t deal with the real problem either. The deeper question should be this: In how many of those cases were the perpetrators prosecuted for gun violations? The answer I am sure will be almost zero.
That is the crux of the problem. Our many Pennsylvania gun laws are rarely enforced and, more often than not, plea-bargained away. We spend increasingly more time attempting to restrict law-abiding citizens while excusing the criminals.
More misinformation is reported at public meetings and in the media. I hear countless demands for a ban on assault weapons but I have yet to see a report explaining that such weapons have been banned for decades. The latest craze is the demand to ban so-called high-capacity magazines. No one seems knowledgeable enough to point out that it takes almost exactly the same time to empty two, 10-round magazines as it does one 20-round magazine.
Yet the list of uninformed, knee-jerk solutions multiplies. Unfortunately, none of them make one bit of difference in solving the problem. No matter how many different ways gun control advocates change the questions, more restrictive gun laws for law-abiding citizens are not the correct answer or the proper solution.
The heart of the problem is the deteriorating sense of morals permeating our youth and our communities. But in our permissive society, admitting that is taboo. Until we are bold enough to address this issue, we will not stem the escalating violence among our youth.
Saccone is a representative for the state’s 39th District, covering parts of Washington and Allegheny counties.