State lawmakers held a hearing on gun background checks Wednesday.
Good thing the ornate caucus room was air conditioned because the gun debate is one hot topic to tackle in the summer. Members of the House Judiciary Committee listened to both sides of the debate during the hearing.
State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) was among several legislators who questioned Captain Scott Price and Lt. Colonel Scott Snyder of the Pennsylvania State Police about the so-called "gun show loophole."
"[If you have a] private individual, private individual ... sell an assault weapon. No background is check needed because of this gap in the law?" Dean asked Price.
"[If] one has a rifle for sale, he may sell it to the other individual without benefit of the background check," Price replied.
During an hour of testimony, both police officials testified of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and its success over the last five years.
"PICS conducts the records check utilizing a voice response system or ‘IVR' ... that issues most approvals without operator intervention," Snyder said.
Out of 513 state firearms dealers who used the system, they stated a recent survey returned with 96-percent approval. However, Joe Keffer of the Pennsylvania Association of Firearms Dealers told a different story when he took the stand.
"The amount of time to process some of the peak periods in December, January, and February ran as long as 55 minutes," Keffer said.
Keffer said many dealers lost business due to long waits and an inconvenience to customers and responsible gun owners.
Similar arguments were heard from several advocates on both sides of the gun debate. However, none was more emotional than the testimony of Francine Lobis Wheeler, the mother of a student killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December.
"The assault weapon that was used to kill my Ben was purchased legally by the shooter's mother after a background check," she said while choking back tears.
Wheeler said she believes background checks will not stop "all gun violence," but said the checks could help protect at least a small number of people, including children.
"I'm a mother, but I have a credential that no parent wants," Wheeler said. "I have lost a child to gun violence."
Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray testified on expanding background checks on behalf of the Mayor's Against Illegal Guns coalition.
The hearing was intended to provide lawmakers with information so that they can make decisions on several key bills in the fall.
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