Pennsylvania State Senators Co-Host Public Hearing on Universal Background Checks for Firearm Purchases

Hughes, MuthImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

PENNSYLVANIA — State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) co-hosted a public hearing on Monday to discuss the need for universal background checks for firearm purchases in Pennsylvania.

The hearing took place at the Roxborough YMCA in Philadelphia and featured three panels of testimony. The panels included representatives from community and grassroots organizations, policy experts, medical professionals, and law enforcement.

Senator Muth expressed concern over the increasing rate of gun violence, calling it an epidemic in the United States. She urged all elected officials to collaborate on comprehensive gun control measures that respect the Second Amendment while addressing the risks associated with firearms. She cited Senator Hughes’ Senate Bill 60 on Universal Background Checks as a starting point.

Senate Bill 60 aims to expand background checks to all points of sale for all firearm purchases, regardless of barrel length. Under current law, only handgun purchases are subject to background checks at all points of sale, while long guns (e.g., rifles and shotguns) are exempted from background checks under private or gun show sales.

Senator Hughes emphasized the need to end the gun violence epidemic terrorizing communities across Pennsylvania. He advocated for implementing universal background checks as a commonsense safeguard.

In May, the House passed House Bill 714 by a 109-92 vote. This bill, similar to Senate Bill 60, would remove exemptions in current law regarding which firearms purchases are subject to background checks. It would also mandate that private sales of firearms adhere to the same background check requirements as sales by manufacturers or dealers.

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Senator Sharif Street shared his personal experience with gun violence, noting that it has become a traumatic norm for many families in America, particularly in Philadelphia. He stressed the importance of pursuing every possible measure to ensure community safety.

Universal background checks are a policy option that requires a criminal and mental health background check on all gun buyers, regardless of the type of seller or the location of the sale. While federal legislation to strengthen these requirements has not passed, 20 states have expanded background checks. However, thousands of guns are still sold annually without a check to see if the buyer is prohibited from possessing firearms.

The hearing included a distinguished panel of participants, comprising Chantay Love, co-founder and president of E.M.I.R. Healing Center; Sam Levy, Regional Legal Director at Everytown for Gun Safety; Gina Pelusi, representing Moms Demand Action; Brandon Flood, Deputy Director of Government Affairs at CeaseFire PA; Stanley Crawford, Founder of the Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia; Scott Charles, Trauma Outreach Manager at Temple University Hospital; and Francis Healy, Deputy Commissioner for Offices of Professional Responsibility & Legal Affairs at the Philadelphia Police Department.

All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video are available at

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