Protection from Abuse Order Bill to Provide Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence; Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Signs House Bill 1717 Into Law

    HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Governor Edward G.
 Rendell today signed House Bill 1717, sponsored by Rep. Katie True
 (R-Lancaster), into law.
     House Bill 1717 amends Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 23 (Domestic
 Relations) by providing for protection from abuse orders.  If a PFA is issued
 against an individual, he or she may be ordered to surrender all firearms.
 The firearms may be sold to a consignment shop or turned over to the local
 sheriff or a third party for safekeeping.
     "Too many unnecessary acts of violence have taken place when arguments
 between couples have escalated beyond control," said Governor Rendell.
 "Individuals have been shot, burned and injured, but they could have been
 saved if more measures had been in place to protect them.  House Bill 1717
 provides the necessary measures to save someone from a brutal attack, which
 could prove fatal.  This bill is not about punishing someone; it's about
 potentially saving someone's life."
     Any person who has a protection from abuse order filed against him or her
 will now face a misdemeanor charge if he or she is ordered to surrender a
 firearm and does not do so.  In addition, any person who accepts a firearm
 from a person against whom an active PFA was ordered, in which the order
 required relinquishment of weapons, will be charged with committing a third
 degree misdemeanor.  The bill also stipulates that if the third party returns
 the weapons to the original owner prematurely, then he or she will be charged
 with a first degree misdemeanor.
     House Bill 1717 also lays forth additional exceptions to those persons who
 may carry firearms without a license:
 
       -- Members of the Air Force and Coast Guard;
       -- Persons carrying an unloaded firearm to or from a place of
          instruction to teach the safe and proper handling of firearms;
       -- A person who is carrying a firearm as a third party to whom a firearm
          was previously relinquished for safekeeping;
       -- A person who is lawfully engaged in the interstate transportation of
          a firearm;
       -- Any person who possesses a valid license under the laws of another
          state, regardless of whether or not there is a reciprocity with that
          state and providing that state allows a reciprocal privilege for
          individuals to carry a firearm and that the Pennsylvania Attorney
          General has determined that the firearms laws of the state are
          similar to those of Pennsylvania.
 
     The license to carry a firearm will be designed to be uniform throughout
 the state in a form prescribed by the Pennsylvania State Police.  In addition
 to the elements required under current law, the license to carry shall
 contain:  a license number; a point-of-contact telephone number established by
 PSP; and a photograph compatible with the Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network.
 Social security numbers will no longer appear on the license.
     In addition to the current $19 fee for a license to carry a firearm, there
 will be an additional temporary fee of $5, to be placed in the "Firearms
 License to Carry Modernization Account."  Moneys in the account will be used
 as grants for sheriffs to implement a new system implemented by the
 Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in conjunction with PSP and
 the Sheriff's Association, to standardize and modernize the process of issuing
 licenses to carry a firearm.  There will also be an additional $1 fee paid by
 the applicant and remitted by the sheriff to the "Firearms License Validation
 System Account."  This money will be appropriated to PSP to establish a
 nationwide toll-free telephone number to respond to law enforcement inquiries
 regarding the validity of a Pennsylvania license to carry a firearm.
     Current law provides for a statewide registry of protection from abuse
 orders.  House Bill 1717 specifies that the relationship between the plaintiff
 and the defendant be added to the information filed in that registry, as well
 as whether or not any firearms, other weapons or ammunition were ordered
 relinquished.  Additionally, the bill adds that any person who files for a PFA
 is to notify the court if he or she believes that the defendant is in one of
 several occupations involving firearms.
     Currently, there is a $25 surcharge on a protection from abuse order, to
 be charged to the defendant.  Under this bill, the fee will be increased to
 $100.
     When firearms are relinquished to a third party for safekeeping, the
 sheriff's office will determine whether or not the third party is prohibited
 from possessing firearms, other weapons or ammunition under federal or state
 law.  If the third party is allowed to have the firearm in his or her
 possession, then both the third party and the defendant will sign affidavits
 authorizing the exchange and the sheriff will issue a safekeeping permit to
 the third party for the length of the PFA order or until revoked by the
 sheriff.  The defendant is to then relinquish the items to the third party and
 obtain a signed acknowledgement receipt.
     However, the sheriff can revoke the safekeeping permit if:
 
       -- A PFA is issued against the third party;
       -- The third party is prohibited from using firearms, other weapons or
          ammunition under either state or federal law; or
       -- The defendant is convicted of a violation of an offense involving a
          firearm, or if the defendant is held in contempt for violation of the
          PFA.
 
     In the event that a PFA is issued against the third party, or the third
 party becomes prohibited from using firearms, the sheriff will notify the
 defendant who may either find a different third party or relinquish the
 firearm to a dealer.  In an instance where the permit was revoked due to an
 illegal act by the defendant, the sheriff will keep the firearm until it's
 relinquished to a dealer or until a court order provides for the sheriff to
 relinquish them.
     Any third party who intentionally or knowingly violates the provisions of
 this bill will be held liable for damages and will be responsible for up to
 $5,000 in punitive damages.
     Additionally, this bill also allows the president judge of the court of
 common pleas to appoint a part-time or full-time master for emergency relief,
 with the approval of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts who may
 accept PFA petitions when the judge is not available, and increases the
 minimum fine for violation of a PFA from $100 to $300.
     The bill passed the House 199-1 and the Senate, with amendments, 48-2.
 The House concurred 191-0.  To view the effective dates of all parts of the
 bill, visit
 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/BT/2005/0/HB1717P2918.HTM
 
     The Rendell Administration is committed to creating a first-rate public
 education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing
 economic investment to support our communities and businesses.  To find out
 more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly
 newsletter, visit his Web site at: http://www.governor.state.pa.us.
 
      CONTACT:  Brandi Hunter-Davenport, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor,
 +1-717-783-1116.
 
 

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

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