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Cumberland County
Gun data: A look at firearm sale trends in Cumberland County

People are buying more guns in Cumberland County, a pattern that follows a nationwide trend.

Sales and transfers of firearms in Cumberland County have increased substantially over the last decade and have risen sharply in recent years, according to Pennsylvania State Police data.

The sharp rise in firearm sales and applications locally and nationwide coincides with the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

That school shooting isn’t necessarily the cause of the rise in gun sales, but the shooting sparked a new round of debate about gun control, and research indicates gun sales and applications for licenses to carry increase in the wake of mass shootings.

A study published in 2017 in the peer-reviewed journal Science found 3 million more firearms were sold in the four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults inside the elementary school, than were sold during the same time frame in the years earlier.

The authors also found that the increase in sales is associated with an increase in accidental firearm deaths. More than twice as many people, including 20 children, died as a result of increased accidental shootings associated with higher firearm exposure from the rise in sales, according to the study.

Cumberland County data

From 1999 through 2011, roughly 6,000 to 7,000 firearms were sold or transferred annually in Cumberland County, according to data compiled from Pennsylvania State Police firearms annual reports.

The reports provide statistics and aggregate numbers on the use of the Pennsylvania Instant Checks System, including sales and transfers of firearms, license-to-carry applications and failures to pass background checks by potential buyers.

All handgun purchases require a background check in Pennsylvania. However, the private sale of long guns does not, which could lead to some under-counting for those types of guns.

Beginning in 2012, total firearms sales and transfers began to surge, rising to more than 9,000 that year and to more than 20,000 by 2016, the latest available year, according to State Police.

While the sale and transfer of both handguns and long guns rose during this time frame, the overall increase was driven heavily by the sale and transfer of handguns.

More than half of all handguns sold or transferred in the county since 1999 were sold after 2012, according to State Police reports.

License-to-carry applications also rose sharply in recent years.

From 1999 to 2006, applications for a license to carry, which allows a person to carry a concealed firearm, remained relatively steady at around 1,500 to 1,800 applications per year. That number jumped up to nearly 3,000 in 2007 and held between 2,000 and 3,000 applications yearly until 2012, State Police reports show.

Applications increase

License-to-carry applications rose sharply to nearly 5,000 applications in 2012 and have largely continued to increase, reaching more than 6,000 applications in 2016, according to State Police.

There has also been a roughly 170-percent increase in charged firearms violations in Cumberland County since 2010, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

These firearms violations can include a person deemed not to possess a firearm being found in possession of one, concealed carrying a firearm without a license or making false statements when attempting to purchase a firearm or apply for a license to carry.

The largest increase, by a wide margin, in firearms violations in the county during that time frame came in charges for making false statements when attempting to purchase a firearm or apply for a license to carry.

Between 2010 and 2013, three cases were filed involving those charges, according to court records. More than 40 cases included that charge were filed in the county in 2016 alone, The Sentinel found.

A study published in 2017 in the journal Science found 3 million more firearms were sold in the four months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults, than were sold during the same time frame in the years earlier.

 Joshua Vaughn  / 

Cumberland County Firearm Sale Trends


Joshua Vaughn, The Sentinel 

Kollin Myers


Crime-and-courts
Mechanicsburg
Mechanicsburg Police: Two charged in overdose death of pregnant woman, unborn child

On Sept. 7, a woman and her unborn child died of a heroin and fentanyl overdose in Cumberland County. Now, the two people who allegedly sold the woman the fatal dose of drugs have been charged in both deaths.

Quent Antonio Neely, 35, and Jennifer Ordaz, 36, both of Harrisburg, are charged with two counts each of felony drug delivery resulting in death, involuntary manslaughter, as well as varying counts of felony drug delivery and misdemeanor drug possession, according to court records.

Around 5:40 p.m. Sept. 7, Mechanicsburg Police and EMS crews responded to the 100 block of West Locust Street in Mechanicsburg to find a 25-year-old woman in cardiac arrest caused by an apparent drug overdose, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Mechanicsburg Police. The woman was 36 weeks pregnant at the time and both she and the unborn child died as a result of the overdose, police said.

A search of the woman’s phone identified Neely as a possible suspect who sold the drugs to her, according to the affidavit. Police said they searched Neely’s home and found heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

When questioned, Neely admitted to selling drugs to the victim and said he got his supply from Ordaz, according to police. Neely told police he would get a couple of grams of heroin from Ordaz every three to four days, according to the affidavit.

Neely helped police set up multiple controlled heroin and fentanyl drug buys from Ordaz, police said.

Ordaz was later arrested and upon questioning admitted she sold drugs to the victim around the time of her death, according to police.

Both Ordaz and Neely were arraigned and released on $75,000 unsecured bail, according to court records. The two are scheduled to appear in front of Magisterial District Judge Mark Martin at 10 a.m. April 9 for a preliminary hearing.


Did Cambridge Analytica get your data? You'll know soon

NEW YORK — Anyone who’s been wondering if their private Facebook data might have been swept up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal will soon get their first clues.

Starting Monday, all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice on their feeds, titled “Protecting Your Information,” with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. If they want, they can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely.

In addition, the 87 million users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will get a more detailed message informing them of this. Facebook says most of the affected users (more than 70 million) are in the U.S., though there are over a million each in the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.K.

Reeling from its worst privacy crisis in history — allegations that this Trump-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections — Facebook is in full damage-control mode, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledging he’s made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He’s set to testify before Congress next week.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie previously estimated that more than 50 million people were compromised by a personality quiz that collected data from users and their friends.

That Facebook app, called “This is Your Digital Life,” was a personality quiz created in 2014 by an academic researcher named Aleksander Kogan, who paid about 270,000 people to take it. The app vacuumed up not just the data of the people who took it, but also — thanks to Facebook’s loose restrictions — data from their friends, too, including details that they hadn’t intended to share publicly.

Facebook later limited the data apps can access, but it was too late in this case.

Zuckerberg said Facebook came up with the 87 million figure by calculating the maximum number of friends that users could have had while Kogan’s app was collecting data. The company doesn’t have logs going back that far, he said, so it can’t know exactly how many people may have been affected.

Cambridge Analytica said in a statement Wednesday that it had data for only 30 million people.

In related developments, Facebook’s No. 2 executive says the company should have conducted an audit after learning that Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed user data nearly three years ago.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told NBC’s “Today” show that at the time, Facebook received legal assurances that Cambridge Analytica had deleted the improperly obtained information.

“What we didn’t do is the next step of an audit and we’re trying to do that now,” she said.

The audit of Cambridge Analytica is on hold, in deference to a U.K. investigation. But Facebook has been conducting a broader review of its own practices and how other third-party apps use data.

In addition, Facebook announced on Friday that it will require advertisers who want to run not just political ads, but also so-called “issue ads” —which may not endorse specific candidates or parties but discuss political topics— to be verified.

Facebook is trying to strengthen its system ahead of this year’s U.S. midterm elections as well as upcoming elections around the world. Facebook has already required political ads to verify who is paying for them and where the advertiser is located. The issue ads requirement is new.

Facebook will also require the administrators of pages with a “large number” of followers to also be verified. The company did not say what this number would be. The move is intended to clamp down on fake pages and accounts that were used to disrupt the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S.

Facebook says page administrators and advertisers will be verified by being asked to provide a government-issued ID. To verify addresses, it will mail a postcard with a unique code that the recipient can then enter into Facebook. This is similar to how Airbnb and other services verify addresses.

The company is facing a global backlash over the improper data-sharing scandal. Hearings over the issue are scheduled in the U.S., and the European Union is considering what actions to take against the company.

Sandberg also told NBC that if users were able to opt out of being shown ads, “at the highest level, that would be a paid product.” This does not mean the company is planning to let users do this. Zuckerberg has made similar statements in the past, but has added that Facebook remains committed to offering a free service paid for by advertising.

Facebook users can opt out of seeing targeted ads, but can’t shut off ads altogether. Neither can they opt entirely out of Facebook’s data collection.

Facebook’s privacy crisis started with revelations that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the private information of tens of millions of users to try to influence elections around the world. Over the past three weeks the scandal continued to spiral. For one, Facebook executives took nearly five days to respond to the Cambridge Analytica reports.

Then, some users who logged in to Facebook through Android devices discovered that Facebook had been collecting information about phone calls they made and text messages they sent. Facebook also acknowledged this week that nearly all of its 2.2 billion users may have had their public data scraped by “malicious actors” it did not name.