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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

In October, a gunman opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd in Las Vegas. He killed more than 50 people, including a Midstate resident, and injured hundreds more. On Nov. 5, a gunman entered a church in a small town in Texas and killed nearly 30 people, including several children.

In both cases, the subsequent conversations about gun control in part revolved around access to firearms by people with mental health issues.

Current law bars anyone who has been adjudicated mentally ill from owning or possessing firearms.

However, according to state Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Philadelphia, this ban on firearm possession only applies to people who were deemed mentally ill by the court and committed to in-patient treatment.

O’Brien has introduced a bill that would expand the conditions in which a person would be barred from owning or possessing firearms.

“Under current law, individuals who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment are ineligible to possess a firearm,” O’Brien wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “However, if a person has been ordered to undergo mental health treatment on an outpatient basis, he or she is still eligible to possess a firearm.”

House Bill 22 would expand the list of people who are not allowed to own or possess firearms to include people who have been ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment on an outpatient basis.

“I believe that, regardless of whether mental health treatment is in-patient or out-patient, if an individual is committed for treatment or ordered to receive outpatient treatment, he or she should be prohibited from possessing a firearm until the court determines that the individual is no longer a danger to himself or other people,” O’Brien wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “The intent of my bill is to prevent or limit harm to family members, the general public, and law enforcement officers, as well as preventing mentally ill individuals from causing serious bodily harm to themselves.”

Under current Pennsylvania law, a person who has been deemed not to possess firearms may petition the court to restore their rights.

O’Brien’s bill was introduced in January, prior to the most recent mass shootings.

Email Joshua Vaughn at Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.


Cops & Courts Reporter

Crime & Courts Reporter at The Sentinel.