Spurred by recent shootings at a neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Congress passed on June 25, 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). The legislation represents the most significant action Congress has taken in decades to reduce gun violence. The bill clarifies who needs a federal license to buy and sell firearms; imposes an improved background check process; and narrows the “boyfriend loophole” by preventing anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence (including violence as part of a dating relationship) from buying or possessing a firearm for at least five years. The Act also expands access to mental health services and the ability of communities and schools to identify people in need of mental health treatment.
Impact on Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act
How does the BSCA impact the law in Pennsylvania? The state already allows PFAs (Protection from Abuse) orders, which protect domestic abuse victims from violent or threatening spouses, family members, dating or intimate partners, etc. PFAs are also sometimes issued in divorce proceedings where a party needs protection from physical harm. The Lento Law Firm can help you obtain a PFA under any legal circumstances. Their representation will take care of your legal needs, whatever they are. Call them today at 888-535-3686.
The BSCA does not directly affect Pennsylvania law, specifically the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act (PPFAA). The opportunity to obtain a PFA, and the process by which one is obtained, are not altered by the BSCA. However, the circumstances under which one might obtain a PFA in Pennsylvania are certainly expanded under the BSCA.
For example, the BSCA adds convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), established under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. Anyone seeking a PFA in Pennsylvania is already able to obtain a PFA against a person who abuses a dating partner in a dating relationship, but the BSCA would now make it easier, practically speaking, to obtain a PFA against someone who already has a record of criminal abuse, since the prior conviction would add credibility to the victim's charges. The term “dating relationship,” as used in the BSCA, means “a relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
Placing an abuser under a PFA in Pennsylvania could potentially constitute the violation of a “local law which has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.” Under the BSCA, this would disqualify the abuser from being removed from the NICS within Pennsylvania's usual 5-year timeline.
Implications of the BSCA
The Pennsylvania legislature acted with foresight when providing that victims of abuse can obtain PFAs against a dating partner as well as against spouse or family member. The BSCA appears to expand the criteria for obtaining a PFA against a dating partner. If you believe you need a PFA order, or if you believe a spouse or partner may try to get a PFA against you, Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you get the protection you need. His experience and expertise are well-established. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.