Between January and June 2011, there were 127 murders by gunshot and 674 gunshot victims in our City. A sad epitaph, indeed! It has been discovered that many of the firearms used in crimes were purchased legally by individuals who are permitted to carry a firearm; however, somehow, those same weapons unlawfully ended up in the hands of criminals.
I believe that if our Commonwealth has regulations in place that would require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, those who legally purchase firearms might think twice before engaging in the practice of straw purchasing – the purchase of a firearm for another individual who is not legally authorized to purchase one. Studies indicate that more firearms used in the commission of criminal offenses originate in jurisdictions which lack lost/stolen firearm regulation. In light of the fact that our Legislature has not enacted laws to address citizens whose firearms become lost or stolen, I ardently supported the City of Philadelphia’s “Lost or Stolen Gun Ordinance” which requires firearm owners to report their lost or stolen firearm to police within twenty-four hours after discovery of the theft. Similar ordinances are in place in at least 30 municipalities throughout the Commonwealth.
You are no doubt aware that there is a small group of citizens in our Commonwealth who support the gun lobby and vehemently oppose ANY legislation that requires ANY kind of gun control or reform, however slight. For instance, currently awaiting consideration before the full Pennsylvania House of Representatives, House Bill 1523 is a measure that, if enacted, could impose heavy financial penalties on municipalities (including Philadelphia) that adopt and/or enforce firearms regulations. Specifically, H.B. 1523 would allow a litigant who successfully sues our City on the grounds that the “Lost or Stolen Gun Ordinance” is a violation of state law, to reap damages and costs for legal fees.
As a community, we must remain as a united front on this important issue. It is imperative that we continue to educate our neighbors and speak out. Polls show increasing grassroots support for various measures of reasonable gun control, even among gun owners. It takes citizen outrage to translate the majority opinion into public policy, so we must all advocate for the passage of good gun reform legislation while unequivocally denouncing bad public policy such as H.B. 1523.