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Following the recent death of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Patrick McDonald, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has signed a stricter gun control law.

The law imposes a mandatory 20-year sentence for shooting, or even attempting to shoot, a police officer.

Additionally, the law includes provisions to cut down on straw purchases, in which legal buyers of firearms act as proxies for those who cannot legally purchase firearms.

In the past year, 10 Philadelphia police officers have been shot on the job, and four have been killed. Most recently, McDonald was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 23.

Penn's Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said the new bill was a welcome relief for law enforcement across the entire state.

She added that the stricter penalties were especially warranted in light of the recent rise in violence against police.

Assaults on Philadelphia police officers for the first half of 2008 rose almost 20 percent from last year, though not all assaults involved a weapon. There have already been 13 assaults on Penn Police officers this year, compared with a total of 15 assaults in 2007.

The new law "takes away discretion from lenient judges" who might impose a lighter sentence, Rush said.

Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore also said that the harsher penalties would be helpful, and not just as a deterrent.

The long mandatory sentence "keeps people who need to be off the street off the street," he said. "It's obviously a good start, and we'll keep working to enforce stricter regulation for gun control."

Rush agreed that the new law is not a complete solution.

"It's not an end-all, but it's a very good start to making people accountable for their actions," she said. "It's just unfortunate it took the deaths of officers before more was done."

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