HB 768: The Firearms Registration Act

On March 8, 2019, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives introduced House Bill 768. This Bill, if passed, would be titled the Firearms Registration Act.

This Act would require all Pennsylvanian’s who possess firearms to register those firearms with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP). Antique firearms would be excluded, along with firearms possessed for sale by Federal Firearms Licensees (provided they have all required licenses), and firearms possessed in “official duty” such as police officers.

If this passes, it would require all firearms be registered with PSP. The owner or possessor of the firearm must file an application to register the firearm. Each individual firearm must be registered. Registration would cost $10 per firearm. Registration must be renewed every year. This would create quite a burden on Pennsylvania’s Law-Abiding Gun Owners, both in the amount of paperwork that would have to be filed and financially, as $10 per gun per year adds up fast.

The application will require a number of items, including: name, home and business addresses, telephone number, date of birth, social security number, age, sex, citizenship, name of manufacture of firearm, caliber or gauge of firearm, model of firearm, type of firearm, serial number of firearm, and two photographs of the applicant. The statute allows PSP to also require any additional information that PSP may deem necessary. The applicant must also undergo fingerprinting and a background check.

Once the registration certificate is approved, the applicant must carry the certification with the firearm. This Bill would also require law-abiding gun owners to produce the certificate upon demand by a police officer. Sounds to me like a violation of both Pennsylvania’s and the United States’ Constitutions.

This Bill would affect non-residents of Pennsylvania as well. Non-residents who are coming into Pennsylvania must register their firearms with PSP unless they are passing through the state or are coming to Pennsylvania to go to a “lawful recreational firearm-related activity.” Even if passing through or going to a “lawful recreational firearm-related activity,” the person must either break down the firearm so that it is not operable or keep the firearm unloaded and in an enclosed case, box, or other container. It must be noted that this Bill does not define “lawful recreational firearm-related activity.” It is unknown at this time what would be included as a “lawful recreational firearm-related activity.”

Finally, and most importantly, the legislature who introduced this Bill did not address 18 Pa.C.S.A. §6111.4. §6111.4 provides that our state government and law enforcement agencies may not create, maintain, or operate any registry of firearm ownership in Pennsylvania. If this Bill passes, it is in direct conflict with existing law. The conflict must be resolved.

I must note that, as a practicing firearms attorney, and given the current makeup of our legislature her in Pennsylvania, I do not believe that this Bill will pass. I would be stunned if it even makes it past a House vote. Even if it did get past a vote, there would still be tremendous constitutional issues to overcome.