Philadelphia lawmakers, others call on state Senate to act on gun safety measures passed by House

PHILADELPHIA, April 4 – Members of the Philadelphia House Delegation today joined gun safety advocates to call on the state Senate to take up legislation (H.B. 777) passed by the House last week that aims to eliminate the proliferation of “ghost guns” in Pennsylvania and crack down on those who buy or sell them, along with other gun reform bills passed by the House in this legislative session.

The bill, sponsored by state Reps. Morgan Cephas and Malcolm Kenyatta, both D-Phila., would make selling or purchasing a firearm or firearm parts without serial numbers a felony. Cephas said these untraceable firearms are a main driver of crime, especially in Philadelphia.

“Ghost guns are far too easily obtainable in Philadelphia, leading to day-to-day gun violence that has no end,” Cephas said. “For far too long, the Pennsylvania legislature has been singularly focused on what we do after crimes are committed with guns, rather than the unfettered access to these deadly, untraceable weapons. I am thankful that the House, under our new Democratic majority, moved this commonsense legislation to the Senate and now call on our state senators to give it the attention and consideration it deserves.”

House Speaker Joanna McClinton noted the other gun safety bills sent over to the Senate in addition to H.B. 777, including legislation that would allow for the temporary removal of firearms from people at extreme risk of hurting themselves or others (H.B. 1018), expand comprehensive background checks on all firearms sales (H.B. 714), and provide grant funding to communities for installing lighting and security cameras around schools, playgrounds, community centers and high-crime areas (H.B. 1130).

“The House has listened to families and friends of those lost to gun violence and to the law enforcement officers and district attorneys who need laws that respect lives rather than placate the gun lobby,” McClinton said. “We need to get weapons of war off of our streets. Every day the Senate waits to act on these bipartisan bills is another life lost, family devastated and community at risk.”

CeaseFire PA Executive Director Adam Garber likened ghost guns to build-your-own furniture, but with deadly consequences.

“They are the Ikea of firearms. You buy a kit with instructions, get a few tools and soon you have a ghost gun that shoots, kills and destroys lives like any traditional firearm,” Garber said. “The only difference is the first you don't need a background check for right now and isn't serialized. We applaud Representative Cephas, the PA House leadership and the bipartisan group of legislators who voted to close this store. It's time for the PA Senate to do the same.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris, D-Phila., said the bills should be commonsense solutions to members of all political parties.

“This is not a partisan issue. When a gun goes off in Philadelphia or any part of the commonwealth, when the bullet leaves the chamber, it doesn't ask for party registration,” Harris said. “The truth is that the bills sent to the Senate are commonsense measures that have garnered bipartisan support. What happens in Philadelphia also financially affects the rest of the state. When people don't want to come here, that hurts the roads and bridges in other counties when the tax revenues aren't coming in.

“Sensible and reasonable people know that this is what should happen. Over the six terms I've been in the House, I've heard my colleagues talk about how much they care about crime in Philadelphia. So, I say to them, now is your chance to show us how much you actually care. It's that simple. You can save lives,” he said.

Cephas added that Philadelphia and municipalities across the state are ready and willing to pass local laws to address the problem, but Pennsylvania’s preemption laws prevent them from doing so. 

“The preemption of local action has been a significant barrier to reducing gun violence in Philadelphia, where we’re desperate to end the scourge of gun proliferation and violence with commonsense tools,” she said. “State action is needed now.”

President Joe Biden took executive action in 2022, requiring background checks for someone purchasing a gun kit, as well as for the sellers of kits. However, gaps in Pennsylvania law allow the high demand for untraceable ghost guns and gun parts to be met without any oversight.