Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | By Laura Olson | Tuesday, March 27, 2012
HARRISBURG -- A group of local officials today called on state lawmakers to reject two pending measures that would broaden the ability of individuals or groups to challenge municipal reporting requirements for lost or stolen handguns.
The four mayors and one councilman said the proposals in House Bill 1523 and Senate Bill 1438 would hinder their ability to protect residents from gun violence, and would put financially strapped municipalities at risk of expensive lawsuits challenging their reporting ordinances.
"We are the electeds who are on the front line every single day dealing with what has become a cancer on our culture," said Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus, a co-author of the city's 2008-approved ordinance, which would assess a $500 fine if a lost or stolen handgun is not reported within 24 hours of discovering it missing.
Mr. Kraus, who said that between 30 and 35 percent of Allegheny County shootings occurs in his council district, also read a statement from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who described the local gun ordinances as "commonsense public safety tools that reinforce personal responsibility while respecting our Second Amendment freedoms."
Gun-reporting ordinances have been approved in 30 Pennsylvania towns -- including Wilkinsburg, Duquesne, Baldwin and a dozen others in the western portion of the state -- despite a commonwealth statute barring localities from regulating guns. No cases have been prosecuted under those ordinances.
The pending bills would give greater ability to the National Rifle Association and other firearms groups to challenge the legality of reporting ordinances, and would increase potential damages if lawsuits are successful.
Instead of increasing the likelihood of court battles, lawmakers and local officials should be working together to increase protection from illegal weapons, said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter: "This is a mindless debate about something that is undebatable."
Neither proposal currently is scheduled for a floor vote. The Senate measure, introduced earlier this month, is under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.