Attorney General Josh Shapiro: Pennsylvania needs universal background checks for guns

    Attorney General Josh Shapiro answers questions from the House Appropriations Committee. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

    Attorney General Josh Shapiro declined to share his opinion on legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana during a Wednesday budget hearing, saying he enforces laws — he doesn’t make them.

    But Shapiro did tell the House Appropriations Committee that Pennsylvania would benefit from universal background checks for firearms.

    Mandating background checks for all gun sales would be “a huge step forward” for the commonwealth, he said, and would “help us in law enforcement keep people safe.” He’s expressed support for universal background checks several times in the past.

    Shapiro said his office defends the Second Amendment, but at the same time must balance the right to bear arms with the right to “walk down the street and not get shot.”

    In his office’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in July, Shapiro is asking for $1.7 million to run the Safe2Say Something PA program. The 24-hour hotline, created by the General Assembly last year, allows anyone to call with school safety concerns. Thus far, Shapiro said the hotline has received more than 4,000 calls.

    “We literally can’t do it without funding,” he said.

    The Attorney General’s office was given $105.2 million from the non-earmarked general fund for the current fiscal year. Gov. Tom Wolf is requesting $113.2 million for the coming fiscal year, a 7.6 percent increase. Shapiro’s office is requesting slightly more: $114.6 million.

    Part of that funding increase would be for additional Bureau of Narcotics Investigations agents to fight the opioid crisis.

    Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.

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