Against Illegal Guns in Pennsylvania

If you follow Community Matters, you know that I support stricter gun control legislation. At the risk of causing another heated exchange over the rights of gun owners, I have an issue with Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) House Bill 1523 that is on Monday’s agenda in Harrisburg. The state House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take a vote on Metcalfe’s proposed pro-gun legislation HB1523 that would hold municipalities financially accountable for enacting gun laws. (To read proposed HB1523, click here).

I understand the meaning of the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right of the people to keep and to bear arms. However, I think that most of us could agree that the 2nd amendment was not designed to protect the rights of people to keep and bear ‘illegal’ arms. Every year, thousands of criminals use guns that have been lost or stolen from legitimate owners.

A major research project is not necessary to know that most crimes in America are committed using illegal guns. However for the record, according to their website, www.wheredidtheguncomefrom.com, “… over 80% of guns recovered in crimes are obtained by perpetrators illegally.”

Assuming that you are a responsible gun owner and a supporter of the 2nd amendment; why would you not support keeping illegal guns off the street?  If you discovered that your firearm has been lost or stolen, why would you not support reporting it missing to the local police?  I cannot imagine under what conditions, a gun owner would not want to do this.

Reporting lost or stolen guns would help the local police with gun trafficking and crack down on straw purchases — people who buy guns and then sell them illegally to people who can’t buy them on their own.  Isn’t this commonsense reform? How’s it any different from someone stealing your car — you’d report that to the police, wouldn’t you?

In Pennsylvania, a gun owner does not have to report their firearm lost or stolen.  But some municipalities have ordinances that require gun owners to report the loss or theft of a gun to the local police, within a certain time from when they discover the gun is missing.  Each municipality determines the time. These 14 cities in Pennsylvania have passed lost and stolen firearm reporting ordinances:

  • Allentown
  • Clairton
  • Erie
  • Harrisburg
  • Homestead
  • Lancaster
  • Munhall
  • Oxford
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pottsville
  • Reading
  • West Homestead
  • Wilkinsburg

These cities and towns across Pennsylvania have taken action to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, but on Monday, Harrisburg may overturn these local decisions. House Bill 1523 threatens to punish cities and towns for taking local action to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers.  Philadelphia and the other cities could face financial penalties for enacting their own gun-control measures that supersede state law.  The bill would allow any gun owner challenging the local ordinance to collect legal fees and damages from the city that passed such an ordinance.

If members of the house Judiciary Committee are serious about upholding the law of Pennsylvania, they should follow the example set by these 14 municipalities!   Rather than “cracking down” on communities that don’t follow the gun lobby’s agenda, the Judiciary Committee should recommend a statewide lost or stolen firearms reporting requirement that would help the local police with their efforts to crack down on illegal guns on the streets.

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As an addendum to this post, look for an unprecedented commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday.  The mayors of Boston and New York may be cheering for opposing teams but they are on the same side when it comes to gun control.  New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Thomas Menino have filmed a 30-second commercial for stricter gun control legislation, which will air during the big game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Bloomberg and Menino are founders of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition which lists over 600 mayors across the country as members.

45 Comments

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  1. Here’s the ad. It’s not heavy-handed – even though the topic is deadly serious.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BO94AdhCg0k#!

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Thank you for the link! Keeping illegal guns off the streets doesn’t have to infringe on 2nd amendment rights.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    I am curious…..we have an extremely serious problem with guns that were sold to criminals in Mexico. What do you feel ought to be done to those who conspired to kill Americans and Mexicans alike? Should we hold the Obama administration blameless? Is it a more serious offence to knowingly sell guns to known criminals with full knowledge that people will die or is it more serious if an individual in Pa. has a gun stolen and is not aware of it?

    [Reply]

  2. The reason for this law is far more complex than your article would suggest. The fact is these communities have numerous laws that are currently in violation of the state preemption of firearms law. What that means is the legislature has sole discretion and responsibility for the enactment of firearms law due to the fact that there are constitutional issues involved.

    There is an old saying that “the ends do not justify the means” and these local communities flaunting the authority of the state legislature under not only title 18 section 6120 of the crimes code but also the legal premise of Dillon’s rule are committing crimes themselves. Even former Philadelphia Dist. Atty. Lynne Abrams stated this in a newspaper article on these issues where she then went on to say she would not enforce the law.

    Our organization (FOAC) has been tracking and analyzing criminal trends for nearly 20 years and what we have found is that there is no shortage of serious laws (lost or stolen local laws are not serious but only summary offenses) but what we have is a failure to prosecute criminals in accordance with their crimes. You should also know that not one single example of the enforcement of the so-called “lost or stolen” local laws can be found! Why is that? Are not these local administrators responsible for applying these local laws? Apparently not in this is a point you do not cover in your article?!

    While there are volumes I could say, probably the most appropriate is simply a question; What if your strong beliefs on gun ownership and crime issues are wrong? You are trying to claim the moral high ground without any documented support for your positions. Many well-intentioned people, such as you, have in other nations (i.e. England, Australia, etc.) pleaded for severe restrictions on the private ownership of firearms. The results have been catastrophic in terms of the loss of life and constant victimization of the average law abiding citizen who cannot depend on the government for safety. Are you will be willing to accept partial responsibility as an accessory to the increase in crime should your ‘strong’ restrictive gun ownership beliefs become a reality since, you are advocating a public policy decision and course of action that results in more harm or death?

    Our freedoms were carefully drawn up to protect citizens from the vicissitudes of the masses who, history has shown, can be easily manipulated. We are a nation governed by the ‘rule of law’ with the motto of ‘Justice for All’. House Bill 1523 will simply provide that a citizen can hold accountable these local communities that exceed their authority and violate Pennsylvania crimes codes and the Constitution.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Dispatch from “the bubble”:

    “… in other nations (i.e. England, Australia, etc.) pleaded for severe restrictions on the private ownership of firearms. The results have been catastrophic in terms of the loss of life and constant victimization of the average law abiding citizen who cannot depend on the government for safety.”

    I’m from England and I have friends in Australia and I say with authority that the statement above is complete bunk.

    There must be a number of parallel universes, inhabited by posters such as this and by presidential candidates, in which alternative realities have to be invented in order to scare the unwitting to the cause - “….. the vicissitudes of the masses who, history has shown, can be easily manipulated”. Indeed.

    Amazing.

    Here in the real world, mayors Bloomberg and Menino, elected by the people in cities that have to live with the widespread availability of illegal firearms, even took the the airwaves during tonight’s Superbowl, advocating for “common-sense reforms that would save lives.”

    [Reply]

    Kim Stolfer, Chairman-FOAC Reply:

    Dear Mr. Clarke,
    Since you claim (wrongly I might add) that the points I raised are complete ‘bunk’ then I assume you have the Home Office Crime Reports that validate my statements?!

    Perhaps you can explain why Manchester has been renamed Gunchester and media reports and articles are printed on a daily basis with the myriad of gun crimes? Of course I am sure you have read the scientific studies proving my points such as the research by Dr. Joyce Malcolm!

    I, too, am well traveled and have friends in England and Australia and Canada. FOAC also has members from these countries and they paint a far different picture than you do!

    I suggest you review the United Nations Report on Crime that shows that England and Scotland are the most violent industrialized nations on record. At this point two concepts are possible; either you already knew this and you intentionally repeated falsehoods OR you did not know this in which case you are unqualified to make the kind of statements that you did!

    It is easy to make grandiose statements denigrating others because of a myopic fear that generates denial instead of resolve and determination to get at the heart of an issue.

    I suggest you read the Kopel/Mauser study on International crime and perhaps the National Academy of Sciences Study on the lack of effectiveness of gun control laws and THEN reconsider your childish statement about ‘common sense reforms that would save lives’!

    We prove our points with independent and peer reviewed science and THAT is why legislation like this is advancing. Any time YOU want to debate these issues in public let me know as I will be glad point out the flaws in your logic!

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Not sure I follow you. Are you supporting your argument against reporting stolen guns by pointing out the increased violent crime rate due to what one can presume is easy access to illegal guns in “Gunchester, England?

    Also, I think that the UN study you referred to excluded murder in the statistics – as in if you exclude murder then Scotland and England are the most violent industrialized nations.

    I do believe in the last decade or so violent crimes in the US has decreased. And, I have not studied this but I do not know that there is a direct correlation between strict gun laws and low levels of violent crime. At the same time those States seen as having the loosest gun laws also seem to have the highest rates of violent crime (Tennessee, Alaska, Louisiana). This would suggest that there is value in some degree of stricter gun regulation but at some point the value diminishes.

    It is my opinion, (and just my opinion) that what is needed is an honest review of what regulations have value and what regulations do not. What we tend to get is an all – as in all guns should be illegal) or nothing (don’t touch my freedoms) approach which I personally find useless.

  3. Pennsylvania Council of Churches Resolution on Legislation in Pennsylvania to Prevent Gun Violence

    http://www.pachurchesadvocacy.org/index_files/web_attachments/Gun_Violence_Resolution.pdf

    “A recent survey demonstrated that nearly all Pennsylvanians (over 90%) favor enactment of a Lost or Stolen Reporting Requirement for handguns.”

    [Reply]

    Kim Stolfer, Chairman-FOAC Reply:

    I am aware of the survey mentioned above and actually have a copy of it. The survey itself is known as a ‘push’ survey by the type and content of the questions asked and has no relevance to any true gauge of public opinion.

    This survey was authorized by Rep. Dwight Evans and even the majority of Democrats in the PA State House found it worthless.

    By continuing to focus on ‘Lost or Stolen’ I believe you are missing the point that these laws ‘don’t’ work. The record of them in other areas proves this.

    The only reason for this kind of law is to empower prosecutors to make arbitrary decisions on when a person ‘should’ have known the firearm was stolen or missing. THIS is exactly what happened in the other areas in the few cases of it being applied.

    Public polls (with real scientific value) and PA legislators are coming full circle that gun control is an utter failure and the real problem we have is failing to hold criminals accountable.

    It is a documented fact from the U.S. Justice Department that if you take the 10 largest cities out of the crime figures for the United States our crime rates are lower than Japan where private gun ownership is virtually non-existent. You will also find that these cities are predominantly the most restrictive of firearms ownership in our nation.

    In fact, here in PA over 52% of the violent crime is in Philadelphia itself. IF you take Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, York, Erie and Harrisburg out of those statistics you will be shocked how low crime is.

    The fact is we MUST stop blaming inanimate objects for what our fellow citizens do and hold the courts accountable. Otherwise we are just deluding ourselves.

    [Reply]

  4. In reviewing the archives of Community Matters, I found a March 2010 post: ‘Continuing the local gun discussion … Supreme Court to weigh in on Chicago’s Handgun Ban … What does this mean for Pennsylvania Gun Owners?

    The McDonald V Chicago case was referenced in the post,

    There is a new Second Amendment Supreme Court case which will look at the handgun law in the city of Chicago. The Supreme Court argument starting tomorrow will decide whether the Second Amendment — like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights — applies to states as well as the federal government. It’s widely believed they will say it does.

    This new Second Amendment Supreme Court lawsuit was filed by an elderly, African-American Chicago resident who said he wants to defend himself. Otis McDonald, 76, is suing the city over its gun ban, says he keeps a 20-guage shotgun at home to protect himself from the neighborhood gangs. But even if the court strikes down handgun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, that are at issue in the argument to be heard Tuesday, it could signal that less severe rules or limits on guns are permissible.

    Here’s the link to the summary of the McDonald V Chicago Gun Case, 8/20/10: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0314.htm

    In a five-four split decision, the McDonald Court held that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms is incorporated and applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

    Court reiterated in McDonald that the 2nd Amendment only protects a right to possess a firearm in the home for lawful uses such as self-defense. It stressed that some firearm regulation is constitutionally permissible and the 2nd Amendment right to possess firearms is not unlimited. It does not guarantee a right to possess any firearm, anywhere, and for any purpose.

    [Reply]

  5. When someone uses our logo or name in a manner inconsistent with our mission statement, and further does not identify themselves beyond the words “Firearms Owners Against Crime”, have we no legal recourse to force said person to either retract the statement or identify themselves? At least we could drop them from our rolls, if indeed the nitwit is a member, and the post didn’t come from Max Nacheman himself.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I did note that this person commented using Firearms ‘Owner’ Against Crime rather than FOAC — Firearms ‘Owners’ Against Crime. For that reason, perhaps he/she did not feel they were using the organization’s name.

    John, since you are with FOAC, based on your comment — can I assume that all members of FOAC support the proposed House Bill 1523? Is it not possible that there could be FOAC members who support the 2nd amendment and their gun owner rights but also support some form of notification for lost/stolen firearms. Just a question and this is a sincere question . . . thank you.

    [Reply]

    John DeLallo Reply:

    Pattye:
    First of all, thanks for the link and an invitation to join in the conversation. Mr. Stolfer and I are joined at the hip in high support for HB 1523. One reason for the Commonwealth’s Preemption Statute for Firearm Laws is to prevent quirky, patchwork laws. Did you know that every citizen of PA is bound by the unlawfully passed Lost or Stolen ordinance in West Mifflin, which is south of Pittsburgh. How would they know of this law.

    To your specific question, no, I think no bona fide member of FOAC would support HB 1523. Is it possible? The nebulous answer to that nebulous question is “anything is possible.”

    I’m familiar with various polls that indicate that Pennsylvania’s citizens want Lost or Stolen. Assuming for the moment those polls don’t yield a directed answer, then it is incumbent on the 90% to contact their legislators.

    I appreciate your allowing me to post a contrary opinion. Max Nacheman has banned both Kim and me from posting on CeaseFirePA’s website.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    John,

    The tag line for Community Matters is “Your Voice Counts … Join the Conversation” and I support the right of free speech. The freedom to expression enables all of us to express our ideas, uncover truth and can evoke powerful emotion and effect change. Opinions of those that comment on Community Matters may not necessarily agree with mine, but I support and encourage their right to those views.

    I think we can all learn from a thoughtful and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions, especially on important issues such as the rights of gun owners and getting illegal guns off the streets.

    Thank you for joining the conversation.

    Tim Reply:

    I am one of those FOAC’s without a membership. As a firearm owner I am definately against crime. I am against illegally passed laws. I am against criminals stealing guns. I am against murder. Shouldn’t we punish the guilty? Should we now punish the innocent?

    The illegally passed law that has been the topic of conversation concerning the reporting of stolen guns is laughable. If someone steals my gun I would report it and do my own investigation and attempt to recover it myself because I know that the police are not going to make my loss their priority. I would also desire to be reimbursed for my loss through insurance. Now if someone could explain how the reporting of the theft would prevent someone from using or selling that gun I would certainly appreciate that wisdom…..or…for that matter…. why in the world they support illegal behaviour by their elected officials?

    Perhaps we should pass laws banning blacks from public swimming pools?

    Support laws that allow reimbursement for malicious prosecution AND prosecution of those who abuse their position to do harm to others illegally.

    [Reply]

  6. Our gun-loving legislators need to review McDonald v Chicago. The 2nd amendment right to possess firearms is not unlimited. Our history provides overwhelming support for the proposition that cities have the authority to balance public safety interests with the right to bear arms.

    The mayors of 167 PA towns and cities publicly support tougher gun laws. See Mayor Against Illegal Guns.
    This coalition includes the mayor of Malvern, many other area towns, almost every college town in PA, and many of PA’s cities.

    The site’s video sends a powerful message:

    http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/local/pa-lost-stolen.shtml

    Like Pattye, I wonder why someone would object to reporting lost or stolen firearms. I understand why straw purchasers and criminals don’t like this requirement. But our state legislators will be protecting criminals and punishing cities trying to protect their residents if they pass this bill.

    Clearly, HB 1523 sets the stage for a showdown between gun-rights supporters and illegal-gun foes like Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Ramsey, who say that gun control is Philly’s best hope for reducing violence.

    It’s a power play fueled by pro-gun contributions in an election year.

    PA legislators refused to pass a statewide reporting requirement in 2008 – even though lawmakers in NJ, NY and Ohio did so. So did Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut and R.I.

    We can’t go backward in PA. Contact your state rep and tell him or her you OPPOSE HB Bill 1523. Its passage will make law enforcement’s job harder and lead to more gun crimes.

    [Reply]

    Kim Stolfer, Chairman-FOAC Reply:

    Gun Loving Legislators???

    Come on! Lets deal with the facts from my original post or are you averse to abiding by the law?

    The facts are that what local towns are doing IS A CRIME! Again there are other laws and gun bans and prohibitions involved here and NOT just Lost or Stolen concepts!

    You also seem averse to dealing with the facts that these laws failed TO HAVE ANY IMPACT ON CRIME in those other states. Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms had one unintentional side effect in one area – ensnaring well meaning gun owners who reported their firearms within the time period alotted. They only found out afterward when they were prosecuted.

    Also, LISTEN to your own logic-these guns are ALREADY illegal!!! Usually multiple times over! Do you ‘really’ believe another law making it illegal again will have any effect when the track record and the National Academy of Sciences and the CDC say NO??

    In addition these guns are not even known to law enforcement until AFTER a crime has been committed using one so these laws will not ‘stop ANY crime’!

    You have every right NOT to like our position but you should accept the fact that it is based in LAW. IF you want to change this then I suggest you work to repeal Article 1, Section 21 of the PA Constitution and Section 6120 of Title 18. Until then these towns MUST follow the law and their oath of office OR they and you are just so many hypocrites.

    [Reply]

    kate Reply:

    Wow, someone is worked up, using all those CAPITAL letters and calling a reporting requirement already n force in many states and cities a CRIME.

    Facts matter. Yours are cherry-picked to justify the proliferation of unlimited, unregulated guns in this country.

    But I guess that guns falling into the hands of criminals, unstable individuals and even terrorists is just the price we pay for freedom, right?

    Reality check: Reporting laws have shown their effectiveness in cutting down on gun trafficking and straw purchase sales. It’s a research-backed fact.

    From the Legal Community Against Violence in 2008:

    “Laws that require firearm owners to report lost or stolen firearms serve several public safety functions. These laws … assist lawful gun owners by facilitating the recovery of lost or stolen property. ” Most importantly, they provide “to law enforcement officers indicators of trafficking and straw purchasing.”
    Read LCAV’s study:
    http://www.lcav.org/content/reporting_lost_stolen.pdf

    Another report, “Trace The Guns: The Link Between Gun Laws and Interstate Gun Trafficking,” produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (a coalition of nearly 600 mayors across the country) found that just ten states with a weak gun-law structure were responsible for exporting 49 percent of the 43,000 guns that crossed state lines and were involved in the commission of a crime; that the guns exported from those states are most likely to have been illegally trafficked; and that guns coming from these states are likely to be soon – within two years – involved in some fashion in a crime.
    Here’s the report:
    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/20100927-27guns-report.pdf

    A 2007 report from the International Chiefs of Police recommended mandating the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.
    http://www.theiacp.org/Portals/0/pdfs/Publications/ACF1875.pdf

    The research on this subject is solid and replicated many times over.

    Not to be discounted: throughout this country’s history individual cities and towns have imposed gun laws for public safety reasons. This is also well documented.

    All of a sudden such laws are a crime? Get real!

    Your interpretation of the state Constitution is just that – your interpretation.

    My question: Why would any patriotic, law-abiding citizen oppose a reporting law? Don’t you want your gun back? Wouldn’t it be on your conscience if your lost/stolen gun were used to commit a crime?

    HB 1523 is gun lobbyist driven legislation. Every state rep who votes for it should have his financial statements scoured for contributions from any of the unregulated guns
    lobby.

    [Reply]

    Kim Stolfer, Chairman-FOAC Reply:

    In numerous discussions and in editorial pieces like the one by Monica Yant Kinney, it is claimed that the goal of the reporting law is to stop the criminal resale of guns, by making it an additional crime for criminal enablers of illegal resellers not to report their illegal transfers:

    “Lost-and-stolen is a no-brainer,” said Joe Grace of CeasefirePA. “Ninety-six percent of Pennsylvanians support this.”

    Really?

    Perhaps you should ask “McGee, the Michigan Grand Rapids detective. “You get a hold of people, ‘Oh geez, we weren’t aware it was missing. He said it is difficult to prove a homeowner intentionally failed to report a weapon missing. He could not recall charges being filed in such cases.

    EVERY state or locality that has enacted ‘Lost or Stolen laws’ has reported similar failures!

    Advocates like Ms. Kinney, and many uninformed citizens who fail to do their own research, ignore the fact that law would violate the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination, and would have no effect on the criminals it is supposedly intended to target.

    PA District Attorneys Association is doesn’t support this concept either!

    In a previous attempt to pass ‘Lost or Stolen’ reporting requirements into law in 2008, legislative leaders such as Rep. Sam Smith were unaware of the amendment regarding Lost or Stolen. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson), was unaware of the amendment until a reporter contacted him. Miskin would not say where Smith stood on the lost-and-stolen amendment, but he expressed concern about the measure’s language.

    He said the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, though not opposing the policy, was reluctant to support the strict penalties in the measure.

    I can certainly understand the District Attorneys Association’s reluctance. While its proponents attempt to market it as common sense, this measure would do little more than criminalize law abiding gun owners who fail to report crimes committed against them. And it would criminalize the failure to report what is often unknowable — a simple loss.

    This makes a potential criminal out of any gun owner, and it treats guns as inherently suspect property, which must be treated as different from other property.

    Former prosecutor C.D. Michel analyzed this problem at length, and his analysis sheds more light on the reluctance of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association to back this legislation:

    Ironically, the ordinance cannot be used against the real bad guys. No law can compel lawbreakers to report themselves. So a straw purchaser who legally buys a gun cannot be compelled to report that he resold it illegally. And since it wasn’t actually lost or stolen, he hasn’t violated the ordinance. Similarly, if a felon prohibited from possessing a gun illegally possesses one anyway, and it is lost or stolen, he can be prosecuted for having the gun in the first place, but cannot be prosecuted for failing to incriminate himself by reporting the loss.

    Enforcement of these ordinances places prosecutors in a precarious legal and ethical position. Say a straw-purchaser’s gun is recovered at a crime scene and traced back to him. If he lies to police claiming his gun was “stolen” when he really sold it on the black market, will we nonetheless prosecute him for something he did not do (fail to report the “stolen” gun — which wasn’t actually stolen) but to which he “confessed”?

    Ethics and legality aside, securing a misdemeanor conviction for failing to report a theft (that never occurred) likely prohibits prosecuting the straw purchaser for the more serious felony black market sale or for making a false statement to police.

    As he points out, the law creates a major problem for true victims of gun theft, whom he very rightly advises to hire an attorney before making any report to the police:

    Perhaps worse, gun owners who truly are burglary victims must now hesitate to speak with police if their stolen gun is recovered at a crime scene. If the gun owner failed to report the loss at all, or on time, she faces possible criminal prosecution if she cooperates with police investigating the recovered gun. She should remain silent, get a lawyer and seek immunity first.

    Then there’s the question of what to do if a gun is missing (or you think it’s missing):

    Legal representation may also be appropriate when a gun is first discovered missing. The owner can be prosecuted if the theft is not reported within 48 hours of when the owner “should have known” the gun was missing. Proponents have made clear they believe “responsible” gun owners should know where their gun is at every single moment and “should know” a gun is gone immediately. And the fear of prosecution will encourage those who miss the 48-hour window not to report the loss at all.

    Effectively, these ordinances place the legitimate gun owner in jeopardy of prosecution for becoming a victim of a crime. In light of these liabilities, gun-rights groups and the criminal-defense bar have begun advising gun owners — who would ordinarily be happy to assist police with their investigation — that they need a lawyer if they are contacted by police.

    You’d need a lawyer even if you misplaced a gun in a disorganized house with lots of repair people running in and out.

    Basically, they’re criminalizing victims of crime, criminalizing what would ordinarily be considered sloppiness, making ordinary gun owners inherently paranoid, ever more likely to become suspects, and in need of legal help for matters that used to be common sense. And of course, the illegal gun dealers, far from being the target class, are completely unaffected.

    Because of the vagueness I described, laws like this will lead to cries for more laws — such as the type advocated by Barack Obama in 1999 which would have made felons out of gun owners whose guns were not “securely stored”:

    In 1999, Obama proposed to make it a felony for the gun owner if a firearm stolen from his residence and used in a crime was not “securely stored” — effectively negating the homeowner’s right to self-defense.

    Via Dr. Helen, who called it “scary stuff.”

    And she’s right. A gun that is locked up in a gun safe is as likely to protect you as a dog that is locked up in a closet.

    We believe these reporting laws are unconstitutional, and but another step on the road to criminalizing self defense.

  7. Interesting comments. Not surprisingly, they reflect polarized positions.

    But where do most Pennsylvanians stand on this? I think most reasonable people support the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, aren’t troubled by required background checks, and probably don’t think that a requirement to report lost or stolen guns infringes on their 2nd amendment right. The right to protect yourself and your family in your own home is fundamental.

    But no one in PA, including its big city mayors, is talking about limiting the the right to legally purchase firearms. The NRA wants you to think everything is about taking away your gun rights, when it is about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

    Consider this position by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

    They support requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to the police.

    PROBLEM: We make it too easy for corrupt gun owners to traffic guns by claiming to police that they “lost” a gun when in reality they sold it to a criminal.

    THREAT: For law enforcement officers investigating gun crimes, this ready-made excuse stops their crime investigation dead in its tracks.

    URGENCY: Corrupt gun owners who funnel guns to criminals have a ready-made excuse when the police come knocking. Can’t account for guns supposed to be in your possession? Just tell the police, “Someone stole it from me.” Law enforcement officers need tools to take this excuse away from corrupt gun owners.

    SOLUTION: Require that gun owners report lost and/or stolen guns to law enforcement authorities.

    See how PA stacks up to other states on gun safety measures:
    http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/scorecard/PA

    H.B. 1523 does nothing to curb gun violence, and makes law enforcement’s job harder. Since the state legislature cannot bring themselves to pass a lost or stolen gun law, they have a responsibility not to make things worse.

    Clearly, that’s what H.B. 1523 does. It should be defeated.

    [Reply]

  8. If the purpose of House Bill 1523 is to incentivise localities to eliminate laws requiring owners to report stolen firearms, I am at a loss as to how it is supposed to accomplish that goal. The Bill entitles anyone who challenges a local law that violates 53 Pa. C.S. 2962(g) to recover damages and attorneys fees (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2011&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=1523&pn=1868). 53 Pa. C.S. 2962(g) says that: “A municipality shall not enact any ordinance or take any other action dealing with the regulation of the transfer, ownership, transportation or possession of firearms.” How does an ordinance that requires an owner to report a stolen firearm regulate the “transfer, ownership, transportation or possession of firearms?” Citizens can still transfer, own, transport and possess firearms — they just have to notify the authorities when they are stolen. What am I missing?

    [Reply]

    John DeLallo Reply:

    What you are missing is that HB 1523 does not address just Lost or Stolen. It provides for personal pecuniary liability for legislators in towns and hamlets and cities who violate Title 18’s Firearms Preemption Law. Your narrow reference to 53 Pa. C.S. 2962(g) completely ignores Title 18, section 6120

    (a) General rule.–No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.

    (a.1) No right of action.– (1) No political subdivision may bring or maintain an action at law or in equity against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other relief or remedy resulting from or relating to either the lawful design or manufacture of firearms or ammunition or the lawful marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public.

    (2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a political subdivision from bringing or maintaining an action against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer or dealer for breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the political subdivision.

    (b) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

    “Dealer.” The term shall include any person engaged in the business of selling at wholesale or retail a firearm or ammunition.

    “Firearms.” This term shall have the meaning given to it in section 5515 (relating to prohibiting of paramilitary training) but shall not include air rifles as that term is defined in section 6304 ( relating to sale and use of air rifles).

    “Political subdivision.” The term shall include any home rule charter municipality, county, city, borough, incorporated town, township or school district.

    You see, HB 1523 will provide penalties for the imposition of taxes on ammunition, it will prevent communities from refusing to recognize licenses to carry firearms, and so forth. I’m rather amazed that anti-gun groups don’t lobby the Legislature to pass a singular Lost or Stolen statute that is the same in every little boro or big city. Could it be that Lost or Stolen is just another Bloomberg buzzword in his effort to bring New York law to Pennsylvania and disarm us?

    [Reply]

    JudgeNJury Reply:

    In her post, Pattye was discussing the lost and stolen laws. My question was why anyone believes HB 1523 applies to those laws. Your response, which discusses other laws (taxes on ammunition, etc.), is a non sequitur. Do you believe that HB 1523 applies to lost and stolen laws? If so, why? How do they regulate the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms?

    You do correctly point out that I overlooked section 6120(a), but that section says almost the same thing as 2962(g), at least with respect to the issue we are discussing here — the lost and stolen laws. Both sections prohibit local governments from regulating the ownership, possession, transfer and transportation of firearms. I fail to see how the lost and stolen laws violate either section.

    Finally, I do not understand why you believe HB 1523 “provides for personal pecuniary liability for legislators.” The bill allows anyone who brings “an action at law or equity against a county, city or municipality” for passing a law that violates the Firearms Preemption Law to recover up to treble damages and attorneys’ fees if they prevail in an action to have the local law stricken. When you sue a county, city or municipality, the individual legislators are not liable for any damage award — the taxpayers are. Basically, HB 1523 encourages individuals to sue local governments with the promise of up to treble damages, and then sticks the taxpayers with the bill if they succeed. In other words, it’s a stealth tax hike.

    [Reply]

  9. call me a cynic, but no matter how tightly this is all legislated, at the end of the day guns will be “lost or stolen”, crimes will continue to be committed and nothing will change.

    As long as there are guns, and certain types are more obnoxious than others, this will never end.

    I don’t believe you can legislate morality and good conscience. Old paradigm. I know gun owners who are very upstanding and do the right thing. But the bad guys will always figure a way.

    [Reply]

  10. Nobody knows this stuff like FOAC, but just to clarify some confusion from the original post: Pattye, all gun dealers are acutely aware of the straw-purchaser problem. The NSSF, the gun industry’s largest trade association, and the BATFE have made prevention and prosecution of straw purchases one of their primary concerns. (See, for example, the “Don’t lie for the other guy” campaign.) You couldn’t put more laws or incentives out there to prevent straw purchases. Just read up on the “Fast and Furious” scandal to see how much attention and collaboration is put into this subject by gun dealers and law enforcement.

    Granted, theft is another source of guns falling into the hands of forbidden persons. So why do gun owners oppose “Lost and Stolen” laws? Because the primary purpose of those laws is to give anti-gun prosecutors a pretext for harassing gun owners who are victims of theft.

    Consider it another way: Why are there no Lost or Stolen statutes for automobiles or alcohol? In the case of the former, most people have a strong incentive to get their cars back, so they report them when lost or stolen. They don’t need a law to tell them that they should report a dangerous and enormous liability like a vehicle in the hands of a criminal. Likewise, I don’t know any law-abiding gunowners who want criminals running around with their guns any more than with their cars, so they report thefts promptly … except in cases where they discover that reporting the theft can open them up to a zealous anti-gun prosecutor deciding that they should have known about the theft sooner, turning the victim into a “perpetrator.”

    Now consider the second question: Why no Lost or Stolen for alcohol? It’s a dangerous substance, illegal for many people to possess, and responsible for far more deaths in this country than guns. But even people who keep their liquor locked away don’t take a daily inventory of it, so they may not realize when some has been stolen. We don’t have Lost or Stolen for alcohol because we don’t think it’s reasonable to give a prosecutor discretion to charge someone with a crime because they didn’t inventory their wine collection frequently or carefully enough.

    There are a lot more anti-gun politicians and government officials than there are anti-liquor ones, so naturally the defenders of gun rights are that much more wary of this sort of abuse.

    [Reply]

  11. New York State has arguably the strictest handgun licensing policies in the nation. New York City, which is effectively a “No-Issue” jurisdiction for carry pistol licenses, has even stricter laws, including those regulating handguns exclusively kept at home.

    Inconvenient Facts for gun zealots:
    With a population of 8.3 million, NYC had 536 murders last year while….Philadelphia had the highest murder rate of any major U.S. city. With a population of 1.6 million, the city had 324 murders in 2010.

    Bloomberg has been a national leader on the need for strong gun laws. Mayor Nutter is working very hard to take guns off the streets, but he has no support from Harrisburg and the majority of legislators who hail from the “Pennsyl-tucky” region of the state. Now this enlightened group wants to poke Nutter in the eye by punishing him and Philadelphia taxpayers. Either pay the legal costs of lawsuits brought by aggrieved gun owners OR take the law off the books.

    But Kim Stolfer makes it clear. It’s all about gun owners, not public safety. The potential harm to innocent but forgetful or disorganized gun owners must be given greater weight than all of innocent bystanders killed in drive-by shootings.

    Stolfer writes:

    “Basically, they’re criminalizing victims of crime…making ordinary gun owners inherently paranoid, ever more likely to become suspects, and in need of legal help for matters that used to be common sense. …..Because of the vagueness I described, laws like this will lead to cries for more laws…”

    Talk about paranoid…

    I noticed Stolfer’s need to mention Obama as an enemy of all gun owners.

    For anyone whose mind isn’t sealed shut, here’s what President Obama had to say on on the issue of local gun laws:
    “I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets …The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view… Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.”

    P.S. Alcohol inventory = firearms inventory? Lysander, you must be kidding.

    [Reply]

  12. gun zealots? You don’t have to be a “zealot” to try to wrap your arms around both sides of the issue. The term “zealot” is antagonistic and not helpful to the discussion. I am enjoying reading both sides of the argument, yet I still think no matter how much legislation is enacted, the problem will still exist.

    Like the education dispute, the problem is deeper than legislation/regulation/money. It runs to the fabric of our society.

    [Reply]

  13. Well, here’s a cheery thought for all of you liberal left wingnutz. Why are we a Republic, and not a Colony under the British Crown? Might have something to do with the Brits attempting to confiscate colonial firearms. Oooh, inconvenient truth there. What’s at the heart of gun control (in reality, people control)? Racism! Oh God, we can’t let the former slaves become armed citizens. You need look only to the Jim Crow era after the Civil War, and the 14th Amendment’s effort to do away with such nonsense. If you anti-gunners would read history, you’d understand the passion for less people control.

    It seems perfectly incongruous to me that you sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya, but would rob those who most need to defend themselves of the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the state.

    Oh, and for Judge and Jury–hell yes, HB1523 addresses lost or stolen. It clearly states that such a law is the province of the Commonwealth, not municipalities, and if you want to fight the Commonwealth you’re going to pay for it. Or mayhaps you like the idea of anarchy?

    [Reply]

    Just a thought Reply:

    Why is such a sarcastic, hateful, and disrespectful post from John DeLallo even on Community Matters?

    He is obviously not interested in an intelligent, informed discussion about a contentious issue.

    [Reply]

  14. Dear Just a Thought,

    Your handle represents you well. Just a thought, no logic or facts.

    What in God’s name is sarcastic, hateful or disrespectful about John’s post?

    You desire an intelligent informed discussion, John presents you with facts in an intelligent manner, and you respond thus?

    My guess, is you’re a liberal and as such you operate primarily on emotion and not rational thought. If you can come up with a cogent response that has some substance in fact, please do, the community is waiting.

    John wrote about historical fact, not about the world as you and the politically correct, read liberals, crowd wish it were. The floor is yours my friend.

    Bob

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Well – first I am not a historian but I believe it is a bit of a stretch to equate the reason for the American Revolution was because the Brits wanted to confiscate guns. If I recall correctly there were 2 major incidents where the British attempted to confiscate militia stores – once leading up to the battle of Lexington and Concord when the attempted to confiscate cannons and then in Virginia where they attempted to confiscate powder. These were incidents that led to conflict in one case and to payment and an elevating the status of Patrick Henry in the other. In both cases a significant argument could be made that the Brits were really trying to limit their risks against facing armed conflict and who would blame them. But they were not trying to confiscate guns from citizens in a broader sense. Just as it would be a stretch to say that the cause of the Revolution was taxes. Colonialists complained about not having any say in England for the money that they paid. And they dumped tea in the harbor not because the tea was taxed too much but that the Brits gave the East India Company a monopoly on tea sales by waiving or reimbursing duties that the East India Company would have paid for importing tea to the colonies. It was a bailout of sorts and one that heavily favored corporations and undercut the local merchants who had to either buy their tea in London and ship it back or purchase it illegally. So in both cases there was taxation involved but the main thrust was having control – of government policy and markets.

    And, it is my guess that what was deemed disrespectful was the bit about liberal left wingnuts. Just in case you aren’t aware there are plenty of liberals who own guns and conservatives who do not and favor gun control measures. I don’t think that has as much to do with a person’s attitude on guns – but one’s proximity to large urban areas whose police forces struggle with illegal guns may have something more to do with a person’s attitude.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    John

    Basically the population revolted over issue of taxation. The Brits thought it was just to tax us for the cost of the French/Indian war and to control what we imported. They might have had a case but wasted too much time in enacting the taxes. Way too much time. You are right in that there were other issues involved. The monopolistic behavior was a huge mistake. However, the overriding issue was that we had no representation in Parliament to plead our case.

    [Reply]

  15. Hey — let’s talk about religion and anti-choice next….Susan G. Komen certainly saw the downside of ticking off women.

    This is a great exchange Pattye — but we all need to remember that this is a discussion, not a debate. No winners here.

    [Reply]

  16. As Pattye reported, HB 1523 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week and is now scheduled for a vote by the full House early next week.

    And it’s no surprise! A last-minute amendment was added to allow the National Rifle Association to separately sue any PA town or city for enacting local gun regulations.

    Note that the NRA is the sole organization on record as a supporter.

    Now consider the opponents of the bill:

    – Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association
    – Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association
    – County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
    – Pennsylvania League of Cities & Municipalities
    – CeaseFirePA.

    Despite what FOAC and other pro-gun groups insist, local laws requiring lost and stolen reporting have been challenged in state courts at least six times, including in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and judges have allowed them to stand.

    This bill is a gift to powerful gun lobbyists and groups who in turn will write campaign checks to those who vote their way.

    Quite simply, it’s a BAD bill. Please contact your state rep today and tell him you OPPOSE HB 1523.

    -Warren Kampf, District 157 http://www.repkampf.com/contact.aspx
    717-260-6166
    610-251-2876

    – Duane Milne, District 167
    dmilne@pa.house.com
    717-787-8579
    610-251-1074

    [Reply]

  17. I am a conservative and I believe in the second amendment. However, I also believe that it shouldn’t be easy to obtain firearms. We have a mountain of evidence that suggests how awful things can happen when guns are easy to buy, legally or illegally.

    The second amendent did NOT guarantee that owning firearms would be easy. I am all for efforts to keep firearms away from people who should not have them. To me, this is commonsense. The framers of the Constitution rightfully wanted everyone to have arms because at that time, we had no real military to protect us from France and/or England.

    I am NOT for banning arms. However, commonsense should dictate that only those who should own arms have them.

    [Reply]

    From The West Reply:

    The framers of the Constitution rightfully wanted everyone to have arms because at that time, we had no real military to protect us from France and/or England.

    *******

    Actually, the Framers wanted us to have arms less because of France and England and more to be able to resist our own, new government if need be.

    Having just freed themselves from England, the very LAST thing the Founders wanted was to give away their citizens’ ability to protect themselves against an oppressive government.

    [Reply]

  18. the republic is crumbling. Legislators need to go home. Get some real, meaningful work in. Stop the legislative train, or trainwreck. From Washington to timbuktoo, we are legislated into toilets, lightbulbs, food, banking and all sorts of behavior and social management. What the hell is going on here?

    unless they stop making guns and confiscate every last one, the legislators are wasting their time. Isn’t there anything more important they can do? Like go home and leave us alone? And no, I don’t support Ron Paul, although a few things he says make sense. Just that too many things he says don’t make sense.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Isn’t that the whole point here? This HB 1523 is useless…why introduce it or amend it? We know why …. because to run for election or re-election costs a boatload…which is why the PSEA has such great tenure and pension rights….biggest lobby in the state (discounting the NRA’s national influence)

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    township. yes. all politics. Mostly useless. Bloated government, so much so that just look at the health care legislation. I bet no one knows everything that is in it, and just like the latest controversy over Catholic institutions, there will be more “discoveries” and controversy to come.

    So legislate guns out of society. Empty. Won’t work. There are many laws on the books now. Murders are up in Philly from last year, same time frame.
    Joke

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    1523 is endorsed by the NRA….to punish people for trying to legislate guns away. Don’t see where the right to bear arms is infringed by the responsibility to report losses and thefts….

  19. There’s plenty of good scholarship on the Second Amendment. I think George Washington best summed up the thinking at the time when he said, “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.

    [Reply]

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