WILKES-BARRE — Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week announced his office has completed an exhaustive review of concealed carry reciprocity agreements with all 49 other states, as required under Pennsylvania law.
The purpose of the review is to ensure consistency in how concealed carry licenses are enforced in Pennsylvania, and to aid law enforcement in doing its job to protect the public.
The reciprocity review, completed following a nearly year-long effort undertaken by the Office of Attorney General, involved office attorneys writing and communicating with every state in the country to review their concealed carry laws to determine if states have standards that match or exceed Pennsylvania law. It also involves the unveiling of a new website to make it easier and clearer for law enforcement and citizens to learn if their state has reciprocity with Pennsylvania and vice versa.
After this review, Pennsylvania recognizes the concealed carry licenses of residents in 29 states. Prior to this analysis, it recognized 28 states’ licenses — 21 other states either have weaker standards or do not enter into such agreements. As of today, 32 states recognize Pennsylvania concealed carry licenses — no change for Keystone State residents.
Pennsylvania has entered into updated reciprocity agreements with 13 states to guarantee uniformity and consistency with the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, the state law governing the process. The Commonwealth has added two recognized states – Idaho and Alabama – and will remove one state, Virginia, after 30 days written notice because its background check requirements are weaker than Pennsylvania’s.
“This review will not impact any Pennsylvania resident currently licensed to carry a concealed weapon in our state, nor does it change the qualification requirements,” Shapiro said. “Its goal is to set clear standards and provide law enforcement with resources to enforce our existing firearms laws.”
The Attorney General’s office unveiled a new web page with more information about reciprocity laws — www.attorneygeneral.gov — under the “Resources” tab. Previously, more than 100,000 hits were registered on a prior web page – showing intense public interest in the subject.
Grandparents raising grandkids
legislative package passes House
A legislative package aimed at helping grandparents raising grandchildren, introduced by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, and Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, passed the House this week and moves to the Senate.
“I’m tremendously appreciative to my fellow House members who recognize the benefit these bills would give to grandparents raising their grandchildren,” Pashinski said. “These grandparents are doing a tremendous service for their loved ones and saving Pennsylvania billions of dollars by keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system. We owe it to them to work together to make their lives easier.”
In Pennsylvania, an estimated 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers of nearly 89,000 grandchildren. Pashinski said the increasing opioid epidemic has worsened an already growing problem. Research has shown children achieve higher levels of success when they’re able to stay in a stable household situation with close family members. In addition to that, grandparents keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system saves the state over an estimated $1 billion per year.
The bills that passed the House include:
• House Bill 2133 — would establish the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program, an informational resource for grandparents, both as a website and a toll-free hotline. The website would offer information on support and services available.
• House Bill 1539 — would grant temporary guardianship to grandparents when the parents of the grandchildren are unable to care for them primarily due to substance abuse issues. The temporary guardianship would give grandparents the right to make vital basic decisions for their grandchildren, such as the ability to take a child to the doctor or enroll the child in school.
• House Resolution 390 — would direct the Joint State Government Commission to study the trend of grandfamilies in Pennsylvania and report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly.
“This is a big step toward helping grandparents but we’re certainly not over the finish line,” Pashinski said. “We’ve had tremendous support from other House members, advocates, and even Governor Tom Wolf. I’m confident we can get these bills to the governor’s desk and will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.”
State awards $2M
in senior center grants
Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced that 41 senior centers will be the recipients of the Department of Aging’s 2017-18 Senior Community Center Grants – totaling $2 million in funding from the Pennsylvania Lottery.
The Jewish Community Alliance of NEPA, the only Luzerne County recipient, received a $40,900 grant.
“Senior community centers serve as gateways for older adults to access vital community services,” Wolf said. “These grants give senior centers the resources they need to revitalize and expand services that enrich the lives of Pennsylvania’s senior population.”
Senior centers have a wide variety of offerings that may include: nutritious meal programs; educational opportunities; transportation services; financial and insurance counseling; exercise programs; and social and recreational activities.
There are more than 500 senior community centers across the 67 counties of the commonwealth, and these grants are designed to help centers provide services that attract a new generation of participants.
For more information on senior community centers, visit aging.pa.gov.
Wolf signs Tierne’s Law
Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed Senate Bill 449, known as Tierne’s law, strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence. He also urged the House to pass a package of domestic-violence reform bills from the Senate.
The governor was joined by Tierne’s Law sponsor Sen. Camera Bartolotta, Pennsylvania’s Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, and members of Tierne’s family.
Tierne Ewing was murdered by her estranged husband in 2016 after he had been arrested for domestic abuse, then released.
Tierne’s Law allows judges to use risk assessment tools to determine whether the perpetrators of domestic violence pose a continued danger to their victims and provides additional avenues for judges to use these tools when setting bail amounts in domestic abuse cases.
Additionally, the law adds strangulation to the list of offenses for which police officers can arrest a perpetrator without a warrant when this offense has been committed against a family member or someone sharing their household.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.