NBC25 Gets it Wrong

Gretchen Gailey should have talked to someone familiar with PICS before writing this article:

For anyone who wants to purchase a gun they must go through paperwork on the federal and state level. The federal check clearly asks if the buyer has ever been committed to a mental institution, but the state form from Pennsylvania, never delves into the issue.

The application/record of sale (which only applies to handguns, long gun sales still go through PICS, but rely on the federal 4473 form) does indeed delve into the issue.  One of the questions on the SP4-113 form “Application/Record of Sale” asks:

31. Have you ever been convicted of a crime enumerated in section 6105(b) or do any of the conditions under 6105(c)  apply to you? 

In 6105(c), which is printed on the back of the form, you will find:

4.  has been adjudicated as an incompetent or who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for inpatient care and treatment under Section 302, 303, or 304 of the provisions of the at of July 9, 1976 (P.L.817, No. 143), known as the Mental Health Procedures Act. 

Answer yes on the form, the sale stops right there.  Answer no, and you will still get run through the PA Instant Check System.  Someone answering no falsely on the form would be committing a felony.  The article notes:

“If it has been a court order that they are ordered to see mental help, that should go on the books and that should be a part of the background check,” says Heckman.

It is part of the background check in Pennsylvania.  PICS includes the mental health records for the entire commonwealth.  It also includes whatever is in the federal NICS system.   The reporter is correct when she points out:

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that does not share its mental health records with the federal gun database, because it would violate the Mental Health Procedures Act.

True, but Pennsylvania does use mental health records in the state system.  Reporting mental health records to the feds is something Rendell can’t change.   That would require a legislative remedy.


Reporters like Ms. Gailey would be wise to remember that gun shop owners aren’t always experts on all aspects of firearms law.  By not doing thorough research, people are mislead to believe that Pennsylvania’s firearms laws and purchase regulations aren’t addressing mental health issues.  This is not true.