Gov. Ed Rendell signs bill at FOP Lodge No. 5

Rendell Signs Gun Bill: NewLaw Gives 20 YearsFor Targeting Officers

By Bradley Vasoli, The Bulletin / 10/20/2008 

Philadelphia – Gov. Ed Rendell, D, signed a bill Friday at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 imposing mandatory 20-year minimum sentences on offenders who fire on police officers.

The new law also extends the statute of limitations for charging a straw purchaser of firearms used in crimes from two to five years. Mr. Rendell said law-enforcement agencies sometimes need more than two years to conclude an investigation of a straw purchase, wherein a person who could likely pass a background check buys multiple guns to distribute to criminals. 

Under the statute, those possessing guns with altered serial numbers face a second-degree felony. Previously, they faced a first-degree misdemeanor. The law furthermore heightens the charge of filing a false report after a firearm theft and prohibits those convicted of filing a false report from having a gun. 

Mr. Rendell said recent killings of Philadelphia police officers underscore the need for legislation of this kind. 

“As we stand here today, we are still shocked and still outraged by the senseless killing of Sgt. Patrick McDonald last month,” the governor said. “And we still have not forgotten the brutal shooting deaths of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, Officer Chuck Cassidy and Officer Gary Skerski, as well as the death of Officer Isabel Nazario.” 

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, D, welcomed the new statute. 

Pennsylvania has seen an 82-percent increase in the number of gun assaults on members of law enforcement, dramatically higher than the 13-percent increase nationally. 

“It’s a good day for Pennsylvania and a great day for law enforcement,” she said. 

Mr. Rendell said while he was glad to sign the bill, he wished the General Assembly had sent him legislation requiring gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearms. 

“We need to make it a crime for failure to report a lost or stolen gun – no ifs, ands or buts,” Mr. Rendell said. “We need to go further.” 

The measure passed both chambers of the General Assembly with unanimous support. 

“I supported this legislation because it targets violent crimes perpetrated against Pennsylvania citizens and the law enforcement community, while not interfering with the Second Amendment rights of sportsmen and legal gun owners,” said Rep. Scott Petri, R-178th, of Bucks County, in a statement. “The new law will keep violent criminals who commit gun crimes in prison and off our streets.” 

Bradley Vasoli can be reached at

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