Harrisburg is one of thirty Pennsylvania municipalities with a local requirement to report lost or stolen firearms to police. Five years ago, lawmakers in Harrisburg rejected a statewide proposal that would extend the “lost or stolen” policy to the rest of the state. In early June of this year, Rep. Madeleine Dean introduced Bill NO. 1515, which is a renewed effort to pass state-wide lost and stolen reporting.
“I have hopes for this legislation,” Dean said. “It’s not a restriction on gun ownership.”
When the missing firearms measure was initially voted down in 2008, Pennsylvania mayors responded by passing local versions of the bill. CeaseFirePA worked with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to replicate the ordinances that were instituted in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“It just took on a life of its own,” said Phil Goldsmith, the past president of the board at CeaseFirePA. “I mean, municipalities started to come to us.”
There are currently 2.5 million Pennsylvania residents who live in municipalities that require the reporting of lost firearms. If Rep. Dean’s bill is passed, all 12.7 million PA residents would be required to report lost or stolen firearms to local police within 72 hours after discovering the gun was missing; failure to report within the 72-hour window would result in a fine. Eight states and the District of Columbia already have similar statewide reporting requirements for lost or stolen firearms. The bill would also “discourage straw purchases, where someone buys a gun legally only to sell it to someone prohibited from owning a gun. Local police say that when they trace back the origins of guns used in crimes, the purchaser claims that the gun was lost or stolen. Under a lost-firearms ordinance, police could punish straw purchasers who make that excuse.”
Though criminal use of firearms “definitely impacts the urban areas more than the rural areas,” said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, “it’s a statewide problem. There is no red line on the ground about where Allentown starts and stops. Criminals don’t care about those lines.”
Though Republicans control the state legislature and governor’s office, a national survey commissioned by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 68 percent of gun owners support the reporting requirement for lost or stolen firearms. CeaseFirePA continues to work with municipalities who want to pass their own ordinances, but the goal remains to pass a state law.