HARRISBURG, August 27, 2007 – Following a meeting today called by the Governor, State Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) said he was pleased with the dialogue on the need to upgrade the Pennsylvania State Police’s computerized criminal background check system and finding dates that can accommodate all interested parties.
The State Police notified affected parties in early August that the system is scheduled for a 4-day upgrade period the Sunday of Labor Day weekend – September 2nd; however, some sportsmen’s groups argued that it would hurt hunters’ ability to buy guns in advance of several migratory fowl seasons that begin September 1st.
“I am glad that many of the affected parties had the opportunity to talk with the State Police today about the challenges they face as well as the impact that the decision to shutdown the system will have on gun dealers,” Fontana said. “It was clear in today’s meeting that State Police officials understood the issues to be addressed and wanted to work towards a reasonable solution to this problem.”
He said State Police officials agreed to explore the prospects of doing the computer upgrade later in September, or perhaps as late as December or early January, contingent upon additional data they need to gather and the impact on other interested parties.
Fontana, who serves as Democratic chairman of the state Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, represented the state Senate Democratic Caucus at today’s meeting.
While agreeing that all parties need to be consulted by the State Police in coordinating background check system issues, Fontana cautioned that it is important for all Pennsylvanians to understand that the computerized criminal history check system is responsible for far more than enabling gun dealers to complete instant background checks.
“This system is a crucial law enforcement tool for police officers statewide,” Fontana said. “It is also used to identify sexual predators, track felons, qualify foster parents, and help schools and numerous organizations screen employees and volunteers.
“While we can hopefully resolve this current disagreement to most people’s satisfaction, it serves none of us to allow this critical law enforcement tool to crash and fail. That needs to be the underlying basis to all discussions on when this system upgrade takes place.”
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