Pa. House Oversight Committee holds hearing after $160K worth of firearms go unused

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The state spent $160,000 on guns and bullets that it will never use for agents that will never get them. The inspector general made the purchase in 2018 only to be told by the governor’s office to get rid of them in, what is best described as, a bureaucratic misfire.

A 12-minute hearing of the house oversight committee. Bipartisan, collegial. No fireworks but talk of firearms.

At issue, the Office of Inspector General purchased 145 handguns, SIG Sauer model P320, for its agents in 2018 after a law gave the IG enhanced powers.

According to the report, procurement rules were followed, but Governor Wolf refused to pull the trigger and allow the guns to be handed out.

“I think they should be able to be armed I think that was a policy decision by the governor’s office,” Rep. John Hershey (R).

House Oversight Committee Chair, Rep. Matt Bradford (D) said, “you actually had some of the folks that worked in the office that didn’t want to be armed and didn’t want that training and everything that went with it.”

However, several agents we spoke to feel their safety is being compromised by not being armed.

Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s Press Secretary, says the governor was not consulted prior to the purchase and, “the administration determined that current law does not support OSIG employees carrying firearms.”

That is one take, but the inspector general at the time who made the purchase is Bruce Beemer, a former attorney general, currently a judge, who consulted on the writing of the law. Beemer thinks arming IG agents is legal.

“There was a lack of communication there,” Rep. John Hershey (R).

The state sold 20 guns to Capitol Police and State Police but still has 125 to get rid of plus ammunition. The initial spend was $160,000.

Rep. Hershey continued, “if you look across the commonwealth right now firearm prices are up ammunition prices are up and I’d like to see us recoup some of those costs.”

Lawmakers, now armed with the knowledge, agreed it was likely an honest mistake and lack of communication.

That same House oversight committee will next investigate the wolf administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

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