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Bill would cut state background checks on guns

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HARRISBURG (WPMT) — State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington/Greene) wants Pennsylvanians to have a more efficient way to purchase guns. On Tuesday, Bartolotta introduced a bill which would eliminate state-run background checks. She believes the current Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) background check redundant to the National Instant Check System (NICS) and is wasting her constituents’ time and money.

“If every state just used the one database all the information would be up to date and at the fingertips of anyone who needs a background check,” Sen. Bartolotta said.

PICS is prone to glitches and delays, Bartolotta says, and is costing Pennsylvanians time they need to purchase firearms, and ultimately, the business owners who sell the guns their profit. Bartolotta believes PICS infringes on Pennsylvanians 2nd Amendment rights.

"It's a redundant system. You're going through two background checks," she says. "My bill would actually require Pennsylvania State Police to report any PFA's or crimes in the history of the individuals to the NICS system."

Bartolotta estimates PICS wastes about $6 million, money she wants to push back into the state police force.

"I don't think you can put a price on that, because potentially we're talking about life and death," says Rep. Steven Santarsiero.

Santarsiero (D-Bucks) is trying to make background checks more strict. He introduced legislation in 2013, House Bill 1010, which would have led to universal background checks on guns. His bill would have closed a loophole under which long guns can currently be bought privately without a background check. It failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

"The PICS system is a better system," he said. "It's more comprehensive. It includes mental health histories that NICS doesnt always include. And it includes a broader range of felony convictions."

Santarsiero plans to reintroduce his bill in the coming months, along with other pro-gun control bills.

Bartolotta's proposed bill is one of two similar bills currently circulating through the Capitol. The other is sponsored by Rep. Tim Krieger (R-Westmoreland) and is awaiting a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Bartolotta believes she has enough support from other senators to pass through a to-be-determined committee, before it reaches the Senate floor.