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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Pike Sheriff aids in updating violent crime laws

  • Last year, Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki served on an advisory committee of the Joint State Government Commission, helping to craft recommendations to make schools safer from violent crime. Appointed by the Pennsylvania Senate, a report was competed and issued in December. Bueki told the County Commissioners Jan. 1...
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  •   Last year, Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki served on an advisory committee of  the Joint State Government Commission, helping to craft recommendations to make schools safer from violent crime.
        Appointed by the Pennsylvania Senate, a report was competed and issued in December. Bueki told the County Commissioners Jan. 15th that he re-wrote 15 laws that will go before the Senate for a vote in a couple months. Senator Lisa Baker had asked him to serve on the committee.
       Major changes are expected affecting mental health laws, school safety and the Firearms Act, while respecting the constitutional right to bear arms."We hold the Second Amendment dear to our hearts," Bueki said. The public was fearful that the government would confiscate their guns, he said. "This shows that is not true," he said of the report.
        Some very old laws had to be updated. There is one still on the books from 1840 that says an armed robber, once convicted, has 60 days to turn in his gun. The Sheriff said this would not work today. The committee recommends reducing this to 72 hours.
       Teachers, he added, overwhelmingly do not want to be armed. The Advisory Committee strongly advises against arming teachers.
       While the Advisory Committee supports schools that choose to hire police officers or school resource officers (SRO), the Advisory Committee strongly opposes arming school administrators, teachers or
    other non-law enforcement personnel.
       Pennsylvania law relies on a background check to obtain a firearm that looks at Juvenile, Mental Heath and Criminal records. Some states, he said, are not as thorough as Pennsylvania.
      Bueki, with the rest of the committee, worked on all of the recommendations but his primary input was in the realms of school safety, firearm laws and school bullying.
      With approximately 30- 40 professionals serving on the committee, Bueki said he was the only sheriff. There were persons representing different fields that may easily contribute to the debate over school safety. Bueki said it was an amazing committee which was able to work together with the safety of school children in mind. They met for a year, first with monthly meetings and then sessions twice a month, and telephone conference calls.
        The committee was organized in the wake of recent school shootings.
        Sheriff Bueki served as the first school resource officer in northeast Pennsylvania in 1985, when as Deputy Sheriff, was helping at Delaware Valley School District. From there he has assisted school districts at Delaware Valley, East Stroudsburg and Wallenpaupack establish SRO programs. For 10 years he also ran an academy at Harrisburg focusing on the SRO program and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program used in schools.
    Page 2 of 7 -   The Sheriff commented that already the rumor is out that he is working against gun ownership, but said this was blatantly untrue.  He said this perception comes from not reading the report. "I am very pro-gun and pro-2nd Amendment," he said. These recommended changes to the laws, he said, protect gun rights while make it tougher for criminals. He said he was vert proud of the work the committee accomplished and was certain gun and sports clubs will be "very happy."
       The entire report is available online as a .pdf, at jsg.legis.state.pa.us/resources .The committee's summary of recommendations is also listed at www.neagle.com.
    ***
    SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
     The Advisory Committee on Violence Prevention has made numerous recommendations, which are summarized below and discussed in detail in the substantive chapters of this report addressing each issue.  Included below are cross-references to the page of the report containing the background and rationale for the recommendations.
    Media Recommendations
     
    Recommendation #1:  To the extent possible, it is important to deny
    notoriety and celebrity status to perpetrators of violence. (p. 63)  
     
    Recommendation #2:  Consistent with the foregoing recommendation, news
    media should exercise discretion in their reporting of violent incidents to
    ensure that public safety is maintained and police investigations are not
    jeopardized during coverage of an ongoing incident. (p. 64)  
     
    Recommendation #3:  Parents and guardians should take a more active role
    in screening and limiting children’s exposure to media violence. (p. 65)  
     
    Recommendation # 4:  While a direct causal link between violent video
    games and violent behavior has not been established to date, the question of
    a potential correlation between simulated violence and aggressive behavior
    remains unresolved.  Further evidence-based research on the possible
    effects of exposure to media violence should be encouraged.  (p. 66)
     
     
    Mental Health Recommendations
     
    Recommendation #5:   The Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA) should
    be thoroughly reviewed to determine whether to amend involuntary
    commitment standards to assure greater access to treatment or to add
    alternatives to treatment, such as assisted outpatient treatment. (p. 70)
     
    Recommendation #6:  Additional education and training, which promotes
    mental health awareness and early intervention should be provided to
    individuals (such as laypersons, first responders and law enforcement
    personnel) who come in contact with individuals who are mentally ill,
    developmentally disabled, or otherwise impaired, and should be made part
    of continuing education curricula. (p. 70)  
    Page 3 of 7 - Recommendation #7:  Additional funding for community mental health
    services is desperately needed.  Insurance coverage parity for mental
    disorders should continue and Medicaid expansion funds available under
    federal law should be provided for more community mental health services.
    (p. 71)  
     
    Recommendation #8:  People should be encouraged to prepare mental
    health advance directives and/or mental health powers of attorney so that
    they may exercise control over the course of their treatment when they are
    in crisis and otherwise incapable of making rational choices.  Further,
    hospitals and members of the medical community should inquire as to the
    existence of these documents with the same regularity with which inquiries
    into the existence of living wills occur. (p. 72)  
     
    Recommendation #9:  Pennsylvania should codify its existing duty to warn,
    currently found in case law, into a statutory requirement delineating the
    need and limits of a duty to protect. (p. 73)  
     
     
    Responsible Gun Ownership Recommendations
     
    Recommendation #10.   Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act contained in
    Chapter 61 of Title 18 is difficult to read and contains overlapping and
    confusing provisions.  It should be repealed and re-written in a clear,
    concise manner that allows a layperson to more easily find and understand
    current law.  (p. 92)  
     
    Recommendation #11.  Pennsylvania already requires background checks
    for all transfers of handguns except those between family members and
    requires background checks for the retail transfer of long-guns.  The
    background checks required under Pennsylvania law prior to the purchase
    of a firearm suffice and need not be expanded further. (p. 93)  
     
    Recommendation #12.   Weapons at local government meetings should not
    be banned, because it would impinge on an individual’s constitutional right
    to bear arms without producing any measureable safety benefit. (p. 95)  
     
    Recommendation #13:  Inchoate crimes (criminal attempt, solicitation and
    conspiracy) are added to the list of crimes that disqualify a person from gun
    ownership, as new § 6211(b)(39). (p. 96)  
     
    Recommendation #14:  The term “adjudicated incompetent” should be
    replaced with a reference to “adjudicated incapacitated under to 20 Pa.C.S.,
    Chapter 55,”  as new §§ 6211(c)(4), 6226 and 6235(5). (p. 97)  
     
    Recommendation #15:  Add adjudication as a juvenile delinquent for
    possession with intent to deliver a narcotic to the list of disqualifying
    crimes.  This disqualification should apply for 15 years or until the
    Page 4 of 7 - individual turns 30 years old. (p. 97)  
     
    Recommendation #16.  Reduce from 60 days to 72 hours the time for
    persons disqualified from gun ownership to dispose of their firearms.  
    (p. 97)
     
    Recommendation #17: Add provisions to clarify that when a person is
    disqualified from gun ownership, all weapons in the household should be
    removed. (p. 97)  
     
    Recommendation #18:  Similar to those used for enforcement of protection
    from abuse disqualifications, add provisions to allow sheriffs to enforce
    other disqualifications with or without warrant. (p. 97)  
     
    Recommendation #19:   The General Assembly should consider whether all
    involuntary commitments under Section 302 of the Mental Health
    Procedures Act should result in firearms disqualifications.  To the extent they
    do result in disqualification, there should be a simplified path to restoration
    of firearms rights in certain circumstances. (p. 98)  
     
    Recommendation #20:   Add a new provision to the Uniform Firearms Act
    to require prompt reporting of lost or stolen firearms.(p. 98)  
     
    Recommendation # 21:  Add a provision to the Uniform Firearms Act to
    require individuals to take reasonable safety precautions when firearms are
    in a home where children are present. (p. 104)  
     
    Recommendation #22:  Include a check-off box on applications to purchase
    handguns for the buyer to acknowledge receipt of a firearms safety
    brochure.  (p. 104)  
     
    Recommendation #23:  Define “physician” to ensure that the same level of
    qualifications of persons authorizing involuntary commitments are required
    for those who can attest to the individual’s relief for firearms
    disqualification. (p. 105)  
     
    Recommendation #24:  The form in new § 6232(c) should be modified to
    account for the fact that there may be individuals who were previously
    disqualified from possessing or acquiring a firearm but who may do so now,
    but they would not be able to truthfully complete an application under            
    § 6109(c), which only addresses individuals who have never been so
    disqualified.  In other words, the application does not adequately address all
    potential circumstances, such as where an applicant’s conviction was overturned, or the applicant was pardoned for the crime, or the applicant’s
    mental health issues have been resolved and the disability to possess or
    acquire a firearm has been removed.(p. 105)  
     
    Recommendation #25:  The time frame for notifications of disqualifications
    Page 5 of 7 - to law enforcement authorities should be statutorily shortened from 7 days
    to 5 days for internal consistency. (p. 105)  
     
     
    School Safety Recommendations
     
    Recommendation #26:  All school entities enrolling children from pre-
    kindergarten to 12th grade in Pennsylvania should undergo a safety audit.  
    Additionally, safety audits should recur on an annual basis.  (p. 107)
     
    Recommendation #27:  School annual safety plans should be complete and
    updated regularly.  All schools of any type in the Commonwealth should
    provided blueprints of every school building to local law enforcement.  
    School safety audits should be a required element of each school’s annual
    safety plan.  School safety mandates should be fully funded and should
    provide for accountability.  Failure to comply with school safety mandates
    should have adverse financial repercussions for the school district or other
    sponsoring entity. (p. 109)  
     
    Recommendation #28:  School safety plans should address multi-layered
    communications, both within the school and with law enforcement and
    emergency responders, such as computer/phone “hotlines,” silent alarms
    and panic buttons, plans for alternative responses based on the nature of the
    threat encountered (e.g., lock-downs versus shelter-in-place, etc.) and should
    also include detailed recommendations from the school safety audit.  
    (p. 109)
     
    Recommendation #29:  Priority status for grants for school resource officers
    should be given to those school buildings that are the most distant in
    response time from local law enforcement.  (p. 111)
     
    Recommendation #30:  While the Advisory Committee supports schools
    that choose to hire police officers or school resource officers, the Advisory
    Committee strongly opposes arming school administrators, teachers or
    other non-law enforcement personnel. (p. 113)
     
    Recommendation #31:  All schools should have Threat Assessment and
    Crisis Response Teams in place. (p. 114)  
    Recommendation #32:  Schools should provide for safety drills that address
    various risks, including active threats, terrorism, explosives and other
    scenarios that will allow students, staff and administrators to be better
    prepared to respond appropriately to a variety of threats as they evolve.  
    (p. 115)  
     
    Recommendation #33:  Student assistance programs should be fully funded
    and adequately staffed in every school district. (p. 115)
     
    Recommendation #34:  Student assistance programs, school counselors, and
    administrators should be sharing pertinent information with each other on a
    timely basis during a preliminary risk analysis.  (p. 115)  
    Page 6 of 7 -  
    Recommendation #35:  In addition to security and risk assessment
    measures, all schools should focus on primary prevention, by creating and
    maintaining a safe school climate. (p. 116)
     
    Recommendation #36:  The Pennsylvania Department of Education should
    add training for students at the beginning of each school year on what is
    dangerous behavior, how to report it and to whom to report it.  (p. 116)
     
    Recommendation #37:   Department of Education curricula should include
    positive behavioral support, social and emotional development and learning
    and instill good behaviors through positive reinforcements.  (p. 116)
     
    Recommendation #38:  The Department of Education should adopt the
    Standards for Student Interpersonal Skills that it created for all schools.  
    These standards could be useful in helping create a safe school climate.  
    (p. 116)
     
    Recommendation #39:  Schools should be receptive to receiving advice and
    training on creating safe school environments.  School teachers and
    administrators should not be solely responsible for investigations and
    assessments. (p. 117)
    Recommendation #40:  All schools should have access to mental health
    services for their students and early intervention programs to detect and
    prevent potentially violent behavior.  This includes school counselors,
    social workers, school nurses, deans, guidance counselors, psychiatrists and
    psychologists, as well as other mental health professionals and staff
    dedicated to maintaining the social and mental health of the student body.  
    Schools, police and mental health services should coordinate activities on
    the local level.  Additionally, the Pennsylvania Departments of Education,
    Public Welfare and Health should coordinate at the state level to ensure a
    continuum of services for children needing support from any of the
    departmental programs. (p. 117)
     
    Recommendation #41:  The Pennsylvania Department of Education should
    amend its definition of “dangerous school” in order to not penalize those
    schools where incidents are safely and positively resolved. (p. 118)
     
    Recommendation #42:  The Department of Education definition of a
    reportable crime under its regulations should be amended to be consistent
    with the definitions used by law enforcement for Uniform Crime Reporting
    purposes. (p. 119)
     
    Recommendation #43:  The Department of Education should review all
    educational settings receiving state educational money, including traditional
    public school districts, charter schools, cyber schools and other alternative
    settings to ensure that they are meeting the same performance standards and
    financial accountability as school districts.  If programs are not meeting
    Page 7 of 7 - standards, then funding should be terminated. (p. 119)
     
    Recommendation #44:  The staff complement at the Department of
    Education’s Office of Safe Schools should be expanded to included auditors
    who can verify grant recipients are efficiently using grant dollars. (p. 120).
    (End of summary)
     
     The entire December 2013 report of the Advisory Committee on Violence Prevention, PA Joint Government Commission, may be viewed as a .pdf at jsg.legis.state.pa.us/resources.
     

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