Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has signed into law tougher gun penalties, including a mandatory 20-year sentence for anyone convicted of shooting – or shooting at – law enforcement officers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The law also increases penalties for other gun-related crimes and closes a loophole that allowed some mentally ill individuals to buy guns. The legislature failed to support a provision that would have required the reporting of lost or stolen handguns.
Rendell said that in the last five years, the number of assaults with firearms against Pennsylvania law enforcement officers increased 82 percent – far more than the national increase for the same period of 13 percent. The Fraternal Order of Police reported that in the last five years, criminals have shot at Philadelphia police officers 188 times. In 22 cases, officers were wounded – and in five instances, they were killed. Officer Christopher Reed, who attended the signing, was shot in the hip last November by a 16-year-old runaway drug dealer while trying to serve a warrant. Reed, 32, a 12-year veteran who now works for the Crime Scene Unit, said an incident like that puts everyone on “heightened alert.” The new law also increases penalties for altering a serial number on a weapon or lying on federal paperwork to buy a gun. It increase the statute of limitations for prosecuting straw purchases linked to gun crimes from two to five years. Rendell said it often takes longer than two years to recover and trace a gun to a crime.