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Pa. Lawmaker Pushing For Tougher Penalties For Illegal Gun Owners

By Brad Segall

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) - A Montgomery County lawmaker is pushing legislation designed to take guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them by putting them behind bars for a longer period of time.

Law enforcement officials from throughout the Philadelphia region testified at a public hearing that House Bill 2331 will go a long way toward being a disincentive to people carrying a gun illegally. The measure, sponsored by State Rep. Todd Stephens creates a mandatory minimum five years in prison for a convicted felon caught with a gun.

Stephens says it also classifies it as a 'crime of violence', increasing penalties for subsequent arrests. "On top of that it would foster I think greater cooperation and you know it would allow our prosecutors and police to get at the heart of this problem, which are the straw purchasers and you know the source of these illegal guns."

Stephens, a former prosecutor, says statewide stats show 19 percent of all people convicted of illegally possessing a gun either had a prior conviction for a crime of violence or a prior gun offense.  "These certainly aren't people who just pocketed a pack of gum from the corner store when they were 14-years-old. These are armed gun-toting violent thugs and we've got to treat them that way and we've got to get serious with them."

In Philadelphia this year, 850 people have been shot and more than 2,000 illegal guns have been seized from city streets. The bill has already passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate.

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