October 17, 2012: District Attorney Seth Williams, Chairman of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association’s Legislative Committee, and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri- Ferman applaud lawmakers in Harrisburg for passing bill HB898 which will increase the amount of mandatory jail time for straw purchasers in the state.
“I want to thank Representative Marcy Toepel for sponsoring this bill, Senators Larry Farnese, John Rafferty, Stewart Greenleaf, Bob Mensch, Dailyn Leach, Anthony Williams and Representatives Ron Marsico and Tom Caltagirone for their leadership in helping to get this law passed,” said District Attorney Williams. “While illegal gun crime is an epidemic in Philadelphia, this new law is important for the entire Commonwealth. Now thanks to this legislation people who buy more than one gun for a felon will go to jail for a long time, which will make all of Pennsylvania safer.”
“The need for this bill was most recently and tragically demonstrated by the death of Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox,” said Montgomery County DA Risa Vetri-Ferman. “He was killed while investigating a car crash on September 13, 2012 with a gun that was obtained from a repeat straw purchaser. His loss is felt everyday in Montgomery County, but the passage of this law is a great tribute to his memory.”
By definition, a straw purchaser is an individual with no prior record, or other disqualifying attribute, who goes into a gun store and falsifies paperwork in order to purchase a gun for someone who has a criminal record and couldn’t buy a gun for himself. Under current sentencing guidelines, an individual with no prior record convicted of straw purchasing faces little to no jail time. Today, the legislature has changed that by approving HB898, which, once signed by Governor Tom Corbett, enacts a 5 year mandatory minimum for multiple gun straw purchasers and illegal transferors of guns.
There is a gun violence crisis in Philadelphia. Firearms were used in 265 homicides last year, which is close to 82 % of the homicides committed in the city. In the same time period, 1421 people were shot. In 2011 alone, Philadelphia Police recovered over 3000 illegal firearms. Studies have shown that approximately 80% of guns used in crime originate from straw purchases and other illegal transfers of guns.
“Jose Cruz, Christian Hall and Jason Gonzalez may not be household names in Philadelphia,” continued Mr. Williams, “but they collectively are responsible for putting 16 guns onto our streets. They are all straw purchasers, and while they may not have pulled the trigger or committed crimes of violence themselves, they are just as responsible as the criminals breaking the law with those guns. Our mission to clean up the streets of Philadelphia and take them back from thugs and criminals just got a little bit easier with this legislation.”