WEST CHESTER – As firearms sales surge in Pennsylvania, state Senator Andy Dinniman has introduced legislation to ensure that gun buyers receive information, training, and proper instruction prior to purchasing a firearm.

Senate Bill 1255 would require firearm purchasers to receive training in areas of safe storage, suicide awareness, child access awareness, domestic violence awareness, road rage awareness/prevention, and safe interaction with law enforcement while carrying a firearm.

Dinniman said the legislation was born out of his conversations with gun safety groups and gun violence victim advocates as firearm sales increase across the state and nation.

“Firearms ownership is a tremendous responsibility,” he said. “As more and more residents seek to purchase firearms, we must promote safety and the importance of taking steps to prevent accidents and violence. That includes not only a basic knowledge of the safe handling and operation of firearms, but also understanding related issues like the legal implications at stake, the dangers of guns in situations of mental illness, addiction, or domestic abuse, and safe interaction with law enforcement when carrying a firearm.”

Starr Cummin Bright, a gun shot survivor and legislative lead for GunSenseUs, a non-partisan, all-volunteer group of gun owners and non-gun owners, thanked Dinniman for his “thoughtful, balanced approach in working to reduce gun injuries and deaths.

“This bill was modeled on Pennsylvania’s Hunter Safety Course for first time hunting permits, which has dramatically reduced unintentional shootings in the hunting field since its mandatory implementation in 1982.  I believe the passage of SB 1255 will improve the safety for everyone, both gun owners and non-gun owners, across our state,” Bright, of West Marlborough Township, said.

Dinniman also cited recent Pennsylvania State Police data indicating that gun shops are recording record sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. State police data shows that Pennsylvania’s Instant Check System (PICS), which is performed on all new firearm purchases in the Commonwealth to determine whether someone can legally purchase or carry a firearm, experienced a sharp spike this year.

In 2019, 217,444 background checks were completed in the second quarter of the year. In 2020, 314,319 checks were completed in that same period — a 45 percent increase. In addition, the third quarter of this year was the busiest in the history of the 22-year-old PICS system. During the months of July, August, and September 2020, more than 406,000 checks were performed across the state, nearly double the number during the same quarter a year ago.

The increase in sales and demand for firearms in Pennsylvania follows a national trend. According to news reports, some gun store owners and managers have even expressed concern about consumers attempting to obtain firearms without fully understanding the need for safety and training.

Under Senate Bill 1255, certain first-time firearm purchasers must receive and complete proper training before purchasing a firearm. The training and certification program, to be developed and administered by the Pennsylvania State Police, would include a safety manual, instructional materials, and a written test. The materials and test would include:

  • Fundamental legal aspects of firearm possession, carry, and use, including self-defense and the restrictions on the use of deadly force.
  • Responsibilities of ownership of firearms including safe storage and accident prevention strategies.
  • Laws relating to the private sale and transfer of firearms.
  • Concerns associated with bringing firearms into a home or environment with children, mental health, or domestic violence issues.
  • Safe interaction with law enforcement when carrying a concealed firearm.
  • Preventing road-rage incidents when carrying a concealed firearm.

Senate Bill 1255 is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.