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On December 21, 2009, the Hatfield Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of an ordinance requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to the police upon discovery of their absence. Hatfield Township has set itself apart as a leader in Montgomery County as the first local municipality in the county, the first Pennsylvania township and 19th Pennsylvania community to adopt the reform – to address the statewide proliferation of illegal guns. In accordance with the new law, Hatfield gun owners will have 72 hours to report a lost or stolen firearm missing to the police, from the time the loss or theft is discovered.
Ward V Township Commissioner Thomas Landauer spearheaded the reform. “I am proud that this board came together as one to adopt this commonsense reform. An illegal gun in a criminal’s hands is just as deadly in the suburbs as it is in the inner city. We need to be proactive and take every step we can to make it harder for dangerous criminals to get illegal guns. To be most effective – we need to see reforms like this one statewide.
In a recent survey of NRA members conducted by conservative pollster Frank Luntz, and commissioned by the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, 78% of NRA members were found to be in favor of mandatory lost or stolen handgun reporting as a tool to keep illegal guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.
Board President and Ward I Township Commissioner Scott Brown explained the law’s intention. “This is a law enforcement issue. Criminals who aren’t allowed to have them due to a past offense commit most crimes committed with guns. We’re not interested in hunters and collectors or any other legal gun user, and most gun owners understand that. This is about illegal guns in the hands of criminals. We’d never take an action against legal gun ownership. We are working against illegal guns only.”
Hatfield Township Police Chief Mark Toomey was present at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting and previously made his support for the reform. This fall, State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski released a statement endorsing lost or stolen handgun reporting and applauding cities and towns that had already taken the important step, encouraging communities to continue pressing for statewide reform to address the proliferation of illegal guns. The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have also come out in favor of the reform.
Hatfield is the 19th Pennsylvania community to pass this commonsense reform in the last year, including: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Reading, Pottsville, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkinsburg, Erie, Homestead, West Homestead, Clairton, Oxford, Munhall, Bradock, Castle Shannon, Aliquippa, and West Mifflin. Others have passed resolutions calling for action by the General Assembly, and more than a dozen additional cities are currently considering it.
For more information see www.ceasefirepa.org.