Monday, October 26, 2009

Conference Call on "Lost or Stolen Guns" Legislation

Today I sat in on a conference call with an assortment of people who supported a requirement to report a lost or stolen handgun; the call was sponsored by CeaseFirePA. My notes from the call are provided below. As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Tom McMahon, the mayor of Reading, is the president of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. There are now 150 mayors in the coalition. Our responsibility is to our constituents. No attempt to evade 2nd amendment rights. Pleased to work with state police and state police chiefs association. We don’t want to pass many different city laws but we need to work together since a statewide law was not passed by the legislature.

Margaret Stock, mayor of Butler, Important issue for public safety. Mayors in commonwealth are responsible for police depts. Officers are often target of gun violence, must do whatever we can to control proliferation if illegal guns. Resonsible gun owners like car owners want to follow rules and be responsible. Sept 9th my office received a lot of calls from people saying the same thing, found out the NRA sent out post cards telling people to call. The post cards had incorrect information. That night a man armed with a handgun was involved in a shoot out with police.

Bruce Kraus, Pittsburgh city councilman, got involved when the bill was in the state legislature, invited to go to Harrisburg and speak. The bill was not successful. After Philadelphia passed a citywide ordinance, someone put forward same piece in Pittsburgh. It passed in 8-1. Erie also passed a citywide law. It gave him the idea of building coalition on local level and then return to state level. Wilkinsburg and a number of other municipalities passed legislation. Over 60 mayors from Western PA, over 20 mayors from Northern PA, nearly 50 mayors from Central PA

Mark Whitman, City of York Police Commissioner, not only PA chiefs of police in support of this but also international association of chiefs of police. PA is not a groundbreaker in this type of legislation. It is not about the 2nd amendment right, 75 – 80% of guns begin as legal purchases. People already own the guns, but same as with cars, if lost of stolen you need to report it. This doesn’t prevent someone from purchasing a legal gun. It does help identify straw purchasers. He had to use federal statues to stop straw purchases at local gun gallery. We need to make a point to state legislature, they serve the same constituency, not competing for a share of the market. Not every person who breaks the speed limit gets pulled over and not all pulled over are ticketed. Not every who doesn't report a lost or stolen gun will be charged. The little old lady whose husband brought a gun back from World War 2 and it has been tucked away ever since won't be charged. We will begin with straw purchase or unreported stolen guns.

Rev. Sandra Straus, straw purchasers not limited to urban areas. Majority of Pennsylvanians support lost and stolen gun ordinances.

Closing remarks from Joe Grace and other speakers: Every major city except Scranton has passed legislation or a resolution in favor of legislation; Scranton is working on it. At present roughly 2 million people in the commonwealth live in an area where legislation or a resolution has passed, that is roughly 1/6 of the total state population. The legislation that has passed so far is similar in wording, following the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh ordinances upheld by the Commonwealth Court. He hopes it will be brought up again in the state house early next year. There are currently efforts to pass similar legislation in townships and small towns, to fill in around and in between cities. That will help show state representatives that support exists and there is little political peril in passing it statewide.

You can read more about "lost and stolen" on the website. Here is a summary sent out before the call:

Lost or Stolen Handgun Reporting: At a Glance

Cities across Pennsylvania are considering and passing local “Lost and Stolen” handgun reporting ordinances. So far fourteen cities have made the rule law: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Pottsville, Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkinsburg, Erie, Homestead, West Homestead, Clairton, and Oxford, and Munhall. Three have passed resolutions requesting action from the State Legislature: Easton, York, and Oxford. Illegal gun violence is not just a “big city” issue. Every community is at risk. Any action that can be taken to stem accessibility to illegal guns, without infringing upon rights of legal ownership is a step in the right direction.

Local lost or stolen handgun reporting had been upheld by PA courts:
• In June, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court passed a decision upholding Philadelphia’s lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinance. The State appellate court held that plaintiffs, who were supported by the gun lobby, lacked legal standing to challenge the ordinance. The court upheld Philadelphia’s ordinance, and it remains on the books today.
• In July, the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court upheld Pittsburgh’s lost or stolen handgun reporting law, citing the PA Commonwealth Court decision as legal precedent.
• These two primary legal challenges brought by the gun lobby against local lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinances in Pennsylvania have been defeated in the courts, paving the way for more cities to pass this local commonsense reform to help police curb illegal gun trafficking.
• Local Lost or Stolen ordinances are not preempted by Pennsylvania law, because Pennsylvania law governs the lawful possession of firearms, while lost or stolen ordinances target unlawful trafficking in firearms.

Why do we need “Lost or Stolen”?
 The vast majority of violent crimes committed with guns – are committed using illegal handguns.
 Often, when a crime gun is traced to an original purchaser, their explanation is, “I lost it,” or, “It was stolen.”
 In the last seven years, 18 Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty. More than half were murdered by felons using illegal guns.

What does “Lost or Stolen” accomplish?
 Reporting Lost or Stolen guns to the police allows law enforcement officers to begin searching for missing guns before they wind up at crime scenes.
 Makes it easier for police to spot “straw purchasers” – people who buy guns legally, and then sell them illegally to people who, by law, are not permitted to possess handguns.
 States that already require lost or stolen handgun reporting, exhibit a 2/3rd reduction in the number of crime guns traced back to within their borders.

What doesn’t “Lost or Stolen” do?
 It does not threaten tradition. This rule will not limit hunters or sportsmen in any way.
 It does not limit self-defense. This does not affect legal purchase, ownership, or use of guns in any way.
 It does not penalize people who are unaware that their gun has been lost or stolen. Owners are only responsible upon “discovery” that their weapon is missing.

Why does “Lost or Stolen” make sense?
 If your car is stolen, you must file a police report to make an insurance claim.
 If valuables were stolen from your home, you’d call the police – wouldn’t you?
 Lost or Stolen handgun reporting costs nothing and can help save lives.

Major police organizations support “Lost or Stolen,” including:
 PA State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski
 Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association
 International Association of Chiefs of Police
 Fraternal Police Organizations across the Commonwealth
 Prosecutors across Pennsylvania
 Police Chiefs in every Pennsylvania region

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