Pennsylvania lawmakers trying to eliminate state background check system

Keith Savage stands at the counter of his gun shop, Braverman Arms, in Wilkinsburg. Savage tells The Citizens Voice newspaper he doesn’t think the Pennsylvania Instant Check System works and goes down too frequently. (Photo: Connor Mulvaney/ PublicSource)

Keith Savage stands at the counter of his gun shop, Braverman Arms, in Wilkinsburg. Savage says he doesn’t think the Pennsylvania Instant Check System works and goes down too frequently. (Photo: Connor Mulvaney/PublicSource)

A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced companion proposals last week to dismantle the state background check system — a perennial cost-cutting measure so far rejected by fellow legislators despite a mounting $3 billion budget deficit.

Co-sponsorship memos for Senate Bill 224 and House Bill 763 both cite the Pennsylvania Instant Check System’s $6 million annual budget — 95 percent of which covers personnel costs — as the main reason to ditch the 19-year-old system.

“I believe this money, as well as the fees used to sustain PICS, can be put to better use than supporting a duplicative firearm background check system of limited value,” said Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, of her SB 224. “Eliminating PICS will also streamline the administrative burdens faced by Federally Licensed Firearms dealers surrounding the sale and purchase of firearms, while at the same time, maintaining public safety.”

Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, sponsor of HB 763, said 2014 changes to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System also alleviate previous concerns raised by the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee regarding its comprehensiveness.

“NICS has added the capacity to check for state prohibitors, i.e., those prohibitions based solely on state law,” he said. “This was something previously lacking in the NICS system.”

PICS was implemented in 1998 as a replacement for the state’s mandatory five-day waiting period, costing the Pennsylvania State Police Firearms Division $120 million to maintain over the last two decades.

State police estimate 60 percent of the checks processed through PICS are completed within minutes, but some can take more than two weeks. Meanwhile, NICS operates on the three-day default-to-proceed rule.

Bartolotta said her proposal would not only save millions, but also ensure “continued public safety with respect to gun purchases through the national system which most states now utilize.”

The National Rifle Association called on members to support the bills last week, calling PICS a “burdensome, duplicative process.”

Both bills await consideration by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Latest Reviews

  • Four Years Later: IWI Tavor SAR Revisited

    Though IWI's X95, released in 2016, usurps the SAR, my Tavor SAR is still part of the family. For those just now coming across this model, how has it stood up over the years? Let's find out.

    Read More
  • Scope Review: Leupold VX-Freedom FireDot Twilight Hunter

    The budget-friendly line of American-made Leupold VX-Freedom riflescopes found a welcome audience last year, but 2020 sees even more interesting additions to the family, with our hands-down favorite being the illuminated-reticle FireDot line.

    Read More
  • Ruger AR-556: An Outstanding Gateway AR

    It should come as no surprise the Ruger name is synonymous with value, and its’ AR-556 looks to fit this mold as an entry-level AR-15 with a reasonable MSRP. So how does the no-frills Ruger AR-556 perform when put to the test? Read on to find out.

    Read More
  • A Look at the Sig P238, A Year Later

    The Sig Sauer P238 was the first .380 ACP BUG to grace my gun safe, a welcomed addition to the 9mm polymers, .38 SPL revolvers, and .45 ACP 1911s. After more than a year's worth of use, where do I stand on the P238? Let's find out.

    Read More

Loading