Most people in Pennsylvania already think that it’s the law to report missing firearms. But in fact there is no statewide lost or stolen reporting requirement, even though statistics show that more crime guns come from states without lost or stolen reporting requirements. And when Pennsylvania municipalities have enacted their own lost and stolen reporting requirements, they have been challenged as preempted by state law.
If a person discovers that his or her firearm has been lost or stolen, he or she should report it missing to the police within a reasonable period of time. Lost or stolen reporting is a reform designed to crack down on the major sources of gun crimes: loss, theft, and straw purchasers – people who buy guns and then sell them to people who can’t legally buy guns themselves. It’s commonsense, and — even more importantly — police tell us this policy works. Most guns used in crimes were once bought legally, and then through loss, theft, or improper transfer, made their way into the hands of criminals. By requiring missing firearms to be reported, police can begin looking for a lost or stolen gun before it winds up at the scene of a crime. In addition, if a gun that was already reported as lost or stolen is later used in a crime, the police do not need to waste valuable time questioning the original owner about the whereabouts of his gun. Finally, when police repeatedly trace crime guns back to an owner who claims each gun was “lost” but never reported, police may be able to flag a potential trafficker or straw purchaser.
SB438 and HB1288 will require gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 24 hours of the discovery of the loss or theft. The legislation would also hold a firearm owner, who fails to report the loss or theft of a firearm that is later used in the commission of a crime, civilly liable for any damages resulting from that crime. This is a legitimate, commonsense law enforcement tool.
What Can You Do?
Let your legislators know your support a statewide lost and stolen reporting requirement, and talk to local officials about reinstating municipal lost and stolen ordinances.