SCRANTON, Pa. — With the renewed debate over guns happening locally and nationally, we set out to answer two questions.
First, what's the current process to legally buy a gun in Pennsylvania?
Second, what checks are in place to make sure the buyer is fit to own a weapon?
We went to a business in Lackawanna County to find out.
David Russell is the Sales Manager at Roll Call, a gun shop and shooting range in Scranton.
A former Marine, Russell said he asks each customer if this is their first time buying a gun, getting a feel for their interests and walking them through the store's selection.
"Once we agree on a gun, we will have to start taking some information, which starts with a Pennsylvania driver's license or a Pennsylvania ID," he said. "Those are the only two valid forms that are acceptable in the state of Pennsylvania."
Customers over 18 years old and interested in a rifle or semi-automatic weapon must first fill out a form from the U.S. Department of Justice. Roll Call then runs each customer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS.
"That process does a background check to make sure that someone is legally viable to own a firearm in the state of Pennsylvania and that they do not have any criminal background," Russell said.
When filling out the background check form from the DOJ, applicants are asked a series of questions.
"[Are you] the actual buyer of the firearm. Are you under indictment for a felony? Have you ever been convicted? Are you an unlawful user of medical marijuana? Are you a fugitive from justice? Have you ever been committed to a mental institution? Have you ever been discharged under other than honorable conditions? Are you an illegal alien unlawfully in the United States?" Russell said. "Those type of things they need to watch out for, and that's what they're going to double-check. If any of those answer are wrong, we stop taking the paperwork. "
You must be at least 21 years old to buy a pistol, and it requires an additional form, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System.
"The pistol form actually accesses the same method through Pennsylvania, and it checks for any criminal background," Russell said. "As long as all those pass, you can have your firearm same-day as long as it's paid in full. If it does not pass; no firearm."
Though it's not required by law, Russell said Roll Call offers customers free training and an introduction to any weapon they buy.
"Safety, how to hold the weapon, what not to point the weapon at," he said. "We also provide them with information and a lock for their gun. Number one, locked to keep it locked up, so if there's any kids in the house, and a youth safety act form so that if there are any kids in the house, you should know the process, you should take if there are any kids."
Russell said if a customer fails a background check, the store is not told why. Customers can contest the decision through NICS, but the sale stops.
Russell said the store also reserves the right to refuse a sale at any point in the process and has in the past.
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