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On December 15, amid a contentious public comment session, and despite strong opposition by the PA Firearms Owners Association and NRA-ILA, West Mifflin Borough Council voted to pass a commonsense law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms missing to the police. West Mifflin joins forces with the growing group of Southwestern Pennsylvania communities that have passed this commonsense reform, including: Braddock, Wilkinsburg, Clairton, Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Pittsburgh, Castle Shannon, Heidelberg, and Aliquippa in Beaver County.
With a 6-to-1 vote, West Mifflin Council passed the lost or stolen firearms reporting ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday evening. Under the ordinance, firearms owners will have 72 hours to report a loss or theft of a firearm to the police after they have discovered it missing. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail. The law applies to handguns and other short-barreled guns - not to shotguns, or hunting rifles.
West Mifflin Council Vice President Arlene Jabbour said, “This is a step in the right direction toward controlling illegal handguns in our communities. We fully support the right of individuals to own firearms, but we also think it is necessary to take action to protect our citizens and police officers from dangerous criminals who illegally obtain guns.”
More than 25 opponents to the commonsense reform – not from West Mifflin, and some open carrying handguns, attempted to intimidate the council against taking action to protect the public safety of its residents and police officers. A number of these individuals heckled others in attendance, disrupting the meeting and causing council president William Welsh Jr. to issue warnings concerning their behavior.
In contrast, many West Mifflin residents attended the meeting to support lost or stolen handgun reporting, including Mary Beth Hacke, mother of toddler Ryan Hacke who was killed by a criminal wielding an illegally obtained handgun. Ms. Hacke said, "This ordinance will not only help make our community safer, but will also provide our law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line everyday, with an essential tool to keep illegal guns from getting into criminal hands."
West Mifflin Mayor John Andzelik, a retired police chief, explained, “We’re after the person who buys multiple guns and sells them to criminals who cannot legally buy guns… this commonsense law does not target law abiding citizens, and it will help police to pinpoint individuals who are engaged in the illegal practice of straw purchasing handguns. I hope the General Assembly will follow our example and pass this reform statewide”
West Mifflin now joins the 18 other cities and towns across the Commonwealth that have passed lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinances into law in recent months: Castle Shannon, Aliquippa, Heidelberg, Braddock, Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Clairton, Homestead, West Homestead, Munhall, Erie, Oxford, Allentown, Reading, Pottsville, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. These communities represent a broad, geographically diverse cross-section of Pennsylvania cities and towns that collectively represent well over two million Pennsylvania citizens.
“The statewide movement toward reasonable handgun reform is growing every day and includes mayors, city councils, police chiefs, faith leaders, and citizens across the Commonwealth who have joined together to support this reasonable reform and urge our legislators to address the epidemic of illegal handguns in our communities and pass lost or stolen handgun reporting statewide.” said Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFirePA. The reform has been endorsed by the PA Chiefs of Police Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner, Frank Pawlowski.
West Mifflin Council President William Welsh Jr. told the McKeesport Daily News that it is common sense to report a lost or stolen gun and is pleased his council colleagues feel the same way. "I think it's a good ordinance," he said. "We'll have to wait and see if it does good. I hope it does. I'm all for it doing good. I think it's a common sense law. If you discover your gun missing, make a phone call to the police and let them know it's missing. That's all. There's no criminality in that."