Corbett Signs Toepel's 'Brad Fox Law' in Plymouth Meeting

The law, introduced by State Rep. Marcy Toepel, imposes mandatory minimum sentence for second time "straw purchasers."


Before Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett ceremonially signed the "Brad Fox" bill, sponsored by State Representative Marcy Toepel (R-147), into law Friday, he first made a stop to understand the full weight of its importance.

The governor entered an industrial section of Plymouth Township, retracing the route of a high-speed pursuit that took place not four months ago, and turned a corner to walk parallel with the county bike trail. A few hundred feet away he came across a collection of hockey sticks and hockey pucks, flowers and flags, memorializing the spot where Plymouth Police Officer Bradley Fox drew his final breath.     

The governor then met with law enforcement and with Fox's family, including wife Lynsay, her belly healthy and round with Brad, Jr., less than two months away from his scheduled arrival into the world. The Governor spoke with Plymouth Police Chief Joe Lawrence, who told him about his fallen officer, and how K-9 partner Nick spent his first night back in the Fox household moving from room to room, searching for his missing companion.

Gov. Corbett then entered the Harmonville Fire Company, and spoke about Act 199 of 2012, the "Brad Fox Law."

"No words can erase the loss of Officer Fox, and no law can fully compensate for [his] loss," Corbett said. "But once on the books, this law we believe can deter and clearly punish."

The law, sponsored by State Representative Marcy Toepel (R-147), restores a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for individuals who are convicted a second time of "straw purchasing" guns, or legally buying guns and then illegally selling them to felons. Corbett, along with other law enforcement officers who spoke at the signing, drove home the danger straw purchasing presents.

"[Officer Fox] died at the hands of a felon – somebody who never should have had a firearm. But he also died because somebody bought a gun legally, and sold it to [the killer] illegally," Corbett said.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman also spoke at the signing and said that county prosecutors had discovered a loophole in the state's straw purchasing laws while investigating the murder.

"We found that the mandatory sentence that should have applied… had been invalidated several years earlier," Ferman said, adding that a bill to close the loophole had passed the House but stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. "So I picked up the phone and called Senator [Stewart] Greenleaf and said 'this bill is in your committee and we're hoping that you can move it.'"

According to Rep. Toepel, who had originally presented and guided the bill through the House of Representatives, that was the push needed to get the bill through the upper chamber and why it was deemed the Brad Fox Law.

"This bill today bares the name of officer Fox because his sacrifice expedited the legislation's approval and brought to light the importance on this law," Toepel said.

Corbett, who said he had officially signed the law the moment in crossed his desk, then sat and ceremonially signed it, surrounded by the Fox family and key legislators. 

Although the new mandatory sentence won't apply to Michael Henry, the man accused of straw purchasing several firearms, including the one used in Fox's murder, Ferman said she still hoped for appropriate justice.

"I look forward to the day, hopefully not too far in the future, when we go into court in Montgomery County and ask a judge to impose a sentence on the person who put that gun in a killer's hands," Ferman said. "And I look forward to a judge not imposing a sentence on a legal mandatory, but a moral mandatory."

The bill signed, the crowd began to dissipate. The dozens of police officers who had shown up to lend support began to file out, many of them giving K-9 officer Nick a pat on the head on their way, while a misty-eyed Lynsay Fox bravely faced interviews in front of the bright lights of TV cameras.

It was clear the pain hadn't gone away, as it likely never will. But those in attendance knew that, once again, Brad Fox had made them safer.  That they had received another gift from a man who lived and gave his life protecting those he loved, and those he had never even met.

Perkiomen Valley Patch editor Brittany Tressler contributed to this story.

mark smerkanich January 12, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Does anyone know the penalty for first time straw gun buyers?
Brittany Tressler January 12, 2013 at 02:49 PM
I did a little initial research on that and I couldn't find the penalty - I will check into it and get it to you, Mark.
truthsayer January 12, 2013 at 04:15 PM
From Title 18, PA Crimes Code...section 6111, Sale or Transfer of Firearms, subsection (G) Penalties... (2) Any person, licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer or licensed importer who knowingly or intentionally sells, delivers or transfers a firearm under circumstances intended to provide a firearm to any person, purchaser or transferee who is unqualified or ineligible to control, possess or use a firearm under this chapter commits a felony of the third degree and shall in addition be subject to revocation of the license to sell firearms for a period of three years. Now this "new" law merely puts some teeth into the existing law which, like most of our laws, has been gutted by case law and legal challenges. Also, unspecified penalities for convictions give your liberal judges the ability to allow criminals to go free without serving prison time. Many police officers, as well as citizens, have been killed by those who should not have been on the streets in the first place. Groups such as "Decarcerate Pa" want to release convicted criminals from prisons. You can introduce all the legislation that you like. Lawyers will challenge these laws, courts will establish new case law, and you are right back to the beginning. That is exactly what happened here. Feel-good legislation is simply done to make you think something is being done. In reality, the criminals have far more rights than you or I, and Off. Fox had his rights taken from him by a sociopath that roamed free.
Brick Sturner January 13, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Let me get this straight… Definition: A, "Straw Man purchase," refers to a person LEGALLY able to purchase firearms, does so, but sells/gives them to a person NOT LEGALLY able to do so. Explanation 1: If you are convicted of a Straw Man purchase, you are convicted of a felony. Premise 1: ANYONE convicted of a felony is not able to buy guns. At least you'd think... Background: Plymouth Meeting, PA Police officer Brad Fox was brutally gunned down by a felon who obtained NINE guns through a Straw Man purchase. News story headline: {PA Governor} Corbett Signs Toepel's 'Brad Fox Law' Tag line: The law imposes mandatory minimum sentence for second time "straw purchasers." Outrage: I'm sorry. SECOND TIME Straw Man purchasers? You're convicted of a felony, a felony that indicates you've put guns into the hands of someone the law clearly does not want armed, yet somehow you're allowed to once again LEGALLY purchase guns? A CRIMINAL Straw Man purchase puts firearms into the hands of CRIMINALS (statistic majority of recipients) so that they can commit violent crimes, potentially involving murder, and the GOVERNMENT is will to give the facilitator of this heinous crimes a 2nd chance? How? Oh, it's because the first conviction only has a loss of privilege duration of three years? Who's the genius... Who is really worse here: the criminal, the lawyers, or the politicians? Clearly it isn't legal gun owners.


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