On Tuesday, March 25, the Letters to the Editor column carried a letter from Elizabeth Smith of Elverson, who stated that "More must be done to prevent gun violence." While I certainly agree with Elizabeth that gun violence is terrible, I note that most gun violence is perpetrated by criminals who ignore laws. Therefore, I fail to see how the passage of more laws is the answer to this problem.
Just to show your readers how the existing firearms laws work in Pennsylvania, here is an example of what you would have to do to buy a car, if the same laws applied to cars and firearms here in Pennsylvania.
You would not be able to buy a car until you were 18-years old, and you would not be able to drive a car until you were 21-years old. (These are the age limits for firearms purchases and carry permits in Pennsylvania.)
In order to buy a car, you would need to shop at a dealership that was licensed by the federal government and subject to a search by the federal government at any time, without a warrant. (This is how the Federal Firearm Licensee [FFL] program works.)
If you purchased certain types of cars, a record of the purchase would be forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police that would show the make, model, horsepower rating, tire size and serial number of the car and various information about you, including your name, address, birthdate, gender, race, physical description and Social Security number. (This is the law for handgun purchases in Pennsylvania.)
You would not be able to choose a model that can travel at speeds over 65 miles per hour or any car that has certain characteristics of "racing cars," since those models are obviously built for the purpose of speeding, in violation of the law. (This is how the so-called assault weapons ban works.)
You would not be able to choose a model that has a gas tank larger than a certain limit. (This is how the high-capacity magazine ban works.)
Once you choose the car you want to buy and arrange to pay for it, the salesman would have to call the state police to see if you have any violations or traffic tickets on your record anywhere in the country. If so, you will not be able to buy the car unless you go before a judge and convince that judge to issue a paper stating that you have paid those traffic tickets and been rehabilitated from your violations. (This is how the background check system works.)
If you want to buy a used car from someone who advertises in the newspaper, you would have to make that transfer at a licensed dealer or the local sheriff's department, who must call the State Police and check on your driving record. (Yes, that's right; contrary to what you may have heard, there is no "gun show loophole" in Pennsylvania. Any firearm sale in Pennsylvania is subject to the background check - whether that sale occurs at a dealer, at a gun show or is a private sale between two citizens.)
Once you have bought a car and started to drive it, you could lose your right to ever own a car again if you break any one of a number of traffic laws. If you were to break one of these laws, you would have 60 days to transfer your car or cars to someone who is not a member of your household, and you would most likely never be able to own a car again. (Think about this the next time you are tempted to speed or run a stop sign!)
If you were involved in a divorce, and your spouse asked for a protective order against you, you would need to immediately sell your cars.
I have read the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and I cannot find a single place in either where it mentions the right of the people to own and drive automobiles. However, it is considerably easier to buy and drive a car in this state than it is to buy or carry a firearm.
By the way, in the year 2000 - which is the latest year for which complete figures are available - there were 451 deaths classified as homicide in Pennsylvania caused by firearms, including 12 homicides caused by legal intervention. In the same year, there were 1,531 deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents in this state. Where do you think we should be concentrating our efforts toward safety?
- Alan Melnyk,