Governor Wolf Signs Domestic Abuser Gun Ban, Urges Legislature to Close Gun Show Loophole

October 12, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today made it harder for domestic abusers to use firearms to kill, terrorize, and control their victims and others by signing Act 79 of 2018, which includes a reform long-sought by domestic violence and gun safety advocates. Governor Wolf thanked the hundreds of citizen advocates that kept pressure on the General Assembly to finally advance these reforms, which also include expanded protections and services for victims of domestic violence.

“Today Pennsylvania is taking a long-overdue step forward to keep guns from abusers and honor all the victims of domestic violence that have lost their lives at the hands of their abuser with a firearm,” Governor Wolf said. “Domestic violence is a scourge on our society and these reforms will go a long way to protect victims, hold abusers accountable and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. I want to personally thank the hundreds of advocates and everyday citizens that made their voices heard and got this bill to my desk.”

Governor Wolf long-championed this reform but today insisted that the work to improve firearms laws to protect Pennsylvanians from mass shootings and gun violence should not end with this bill. He urged Republicans in control of the General Assembly to continue advancing gun safety proposals, including closing the ‘Gun Show Loophole’ that allows long guns, including AR-15s, to be sold in private sales without a background check by the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Many other states have acted in a bipartisan way to protect victims of all sorts from gun violence and mass shootings by enacting commonsense gun safety reforms,” Governor Wolf said. “The Pennsylvania State Police and I have called on the legislature to close the gun show loophole and ensure powerful weapons are not legally getting into the hands of dangerous individuals because a background check was not required. The legislature’s work on gun safety remains incomplete.”

According to recent research, from 2009 to 2016 in the U.S., there have been 156 mass shootings — incidents in which four or more people were shot and killed, not including the shooter. These incidents resulted in 1,187 victims shot: 848 people were shot and killed, and 339 people were shot and injured. The majority of mass shootings — 54 percent of cases — were related to domestic or family violence.

The new law includes additional safeguards to help protect victims of domestic violence, including:

  • New requirements around prohibiting abusers who have been issued a final protection from abuse orders issued after a contested hearing or conviction for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from possessing firearms and requires them to turn in their guns to law enforcement agencies immediately while the order is in effect;
  • Eliminates the concern about simply relinquishing a firearm to a family member or friend;
  • Requires that the PFA be served by the sheriff or duly authorized deputy sheriff, unless the plaintiff chooses an alternative method of service;
  • Allows for the time that an individual is incarcerated not to be counted for the 90 days of a temporary PFA.

Many of the advocates and supporters of the bill championed the legislation being signed into law:

“Today, on behalf of victims and survivors of domestic violence, we celebrate the signing of HB 2060 into law,” said Susan Higginbotham of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “The Coalition has actively advocated for this legislation for the last ten years, as domestic violence homicide prevention has been, and continues to be, a top priority. We thank the General Assembly and Governor Wolf for standing with victims of domestic violence. To finally see this life-saving legislation signed into law is nothing short of historic. It’s an extraordinary way to honor victims and survivors during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

“Today’s bill signing is a momentous occasion and a huge step forward for gun safety in Pennsylvania,” said Deb Marteslo of the PA Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We could not be more proud of our lawmakers and Governor Wolf for protecting domestic violence survivors, their loved ones and all Pennsylvania families. This new law will help save lives.”

“I am pleased that both the House and the Senate were able to get this much-needed and life-saving legislation to the governor for his signature,” said Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks), sponsor of the bill. “A broad coalition of supporters and advocacy groups came together to ensure we were able to get this bill over the goal line and onto the governor’s desk prior to the end of this legislative session. I want to thank Governor Wolf and everyone who fought for this bill, most especially those who speak up on behalf of domestic violence victims all over this state and help ensure their safety each and every day.”

Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA thanked Governor Wolf, saying, “This is the most significant piece of gun-related legislation passed in years. It is a commonsense solution to the tragic problem caused by the deadly mix of domestic abuse and guns. This law — simply put — will save lives and make PA safer.”
“Kudos to all of the Moms Demand Action volunteers who spoke up for the survivors of domestic violence — and kudos to Governor Wolf for stepping up and taking action to keep guns away from abusers,” said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Commonsense gun laws like HB 2060 aren’t a matter of right-or-left — they’re a matter of life-or-death for the millions of American women who have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.”

“Victims of domestic violence are at heightened risk when they seek legal intervention, particularly when an abuser has access to firearms,” said Randi Teplitz, chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. “This bill serves as a major step forward in strengthening the Protection From Abuse Act and penalties for the commission of domestic violence crimes. We are proud to support Governor Wolf today as he signs this bill that will inevitably save the lives of our friends and neighbors across the commonwealth who are living in abusive relationships.”

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