Health - June 21, 2013


Pennsylvania’s surprising gun statistics

According to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Pennsylvania led the nation in 2012 for the number of reported or stolen firearms from gun dealers. In PA 1,502 guns were reported lost or stolen, outnumbering even Texas which had a reported 1,263 reported. Andrew Molchan, director of the national gun dealers’ organization, American Firearms, claims that “the high number of gun sales in Pennsylvania may be the reason the state has many losses,” but this doesn’t explain why PA also has had 6,566 firearms being reported as lost by private citizens. Even though some PA municipalities, such as in Philadelphia, have passed laws requiring the reporting of missing guns, there is no state law requiring it, which could potentially supersede local ordinances.

As the number of stolen guns has increased in recent years, the number Pennsylvanians applying for permits to carry a concealed weapon have also increased in recent years.  The increase has created a backlog in some county offices.  In February, PA State Attorney General Kathleen Kane closed the “Florida loophole” which allowed PA gun owners to apply for permits via Florida; those existing permits expired June 8.  PA State Senator Richard Alloway II, R—Franklin, views this as an attack on constitutional rights and feels Philadelphia County has been aggressive in denying permits to residents.  He recently announced his plan to introduce legislation to allow residents to apply for a permit in a county adjacent to the one in which they reside, in order “to afford them the opportunity to go to an adjacent country to get their permit.” Alloway does agree that the “Florida loophole” needed to be closed and that PA residents should be going through the permit process in Pennsylvania.  As the Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, Senator Alloway has been a vocal advocate of the Second Amendment.   In Alloway’s home district, Franklin Country, applications for concealed weapons permits have increased by 65 percent in five years. In 2012 alone, Franklin Country’s Sheriff’s office issued 3,194 new permits and renewals.  Alloway has stated that he is introducing this legislation “to start the dialogue” and he is “very interested in hearing from all sides on this” issue.

Varying Interest from Congress about Reducing Student Loan Interest Rates

Student loan interest rates have been a hot topic on Capitol Hill this session and Congress is feeling the pressure of the July 1st deadline. This year the College Cost Reduction and Access Act will expire, which has been providing students with decreased interest rates since 2007. If Congress doesn't take action the interest rate on new loans will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, adding to its current $1 trillion debt. Members of central Pennsylvania's congressional delegation have varying opinions on how to approach this change, some choosing to be proactive and others waiting for a bipartisan solution to be proposed. In May the House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act with substantial support from both parties. The bill connects student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note and adds 2.5 percent on federally subsidized Stafford loans to come up with the appropriate interest rate. Another legislative avenue being pursued is tying the interest rates to the market in order to avoid doubling the rates. PA Representatives Barletta (R), Dent (R), and Gerlach (R) supported the Smarter Solutions for Students Act and are urging the Senate to follow the House's lead to negotiate a deal. Dent and Gerlach were two of fifty representatives who co-signed a bipartisan letter to Senate leaders with this request. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) voted to freeze student loan interest rates for the next two years. And Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) voted against the GOP bill that was similar to the House bill saying he feels there are greater issues to focus on, such as the economy and general cost of education.