A legislative study released Wednesday, February 8, indicated Pennsylvania’s system of instant background checks for gun buyers could go into the red in about a year without funding changes. Firearm dealers and county sheriffs lodged 529,000 calls in 2004 to Pennsylvania’s Instant Check System, which is run by the state police. Those calls concerned the sale or transfer of 393,000 firearms and 107,000 license-to-carry permits. Fewer than 2 percent of background checks result in a denial.
The “Legislative Budget and Finance Committee” report said a decision by the governor’s budget office to stop funding the checks with a general fund line-item means the system may run out of money in about a year. Historically, about two-thirds of the system’s funding has come from the general fund. The system also collects a $2 instant-check fee, and a $3 surcharge from the sale of firearms. It costs about $4.2 million annually to fund the program, and the “Firearms Record Check Fund” had a $4.4 million reserve as of June 2005. The report said that without general fund money, the $2 instant-check fee would have to be increased to at least $8.75. In addition, an $8.75 fee would not pay for proposed computer upgrades.
Please write Governor Rendell and insist that the fee be kept reasonable so that persons of limited means are not effectively deprived of the constitutional right to “Keep and Bear Arms.” Since the Commonwealth requires persons to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm, the general fund should bear the majority of the financial cost of supporting the licensing system. You can send correspondence to: Governor Edward Rendell, RM. 225 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.