After more than a decade, the city’s justice system has activated for the first time the “Lost or Stolen Guns Ordinance,” a rule in Philadelphia that requires firearm owners to report the loss or theft of these self-defense tools to the Police Department within 24 hours after they are considered missing.
In recent hours Philadelphia has created a new benchmark with the implementation of the first measure of this type filed by the City Law Department. Through this ordinance, measures can be taken to reduce and prevent gun violence and the presence of illegal weapons in the streets. Among the initiatives to be developed is to keep a record of weapons reported stolen or missing, in order to be an important piece of information within the criminal input of investigators.
The legal procedure was welcomed by Mayor Jim Kenney, who thanked the District Attorney and City Council for partnering with the Mayor’s office in this effort, “and our Law Department for taking these cases to court.”
“This action is an important first step in demonstrating that there are consequences for the failure to follow this City law,” said Mayor Kenney. “More importantly, it is an example of our resolve to battle the gun violence that plagues Philadelphia. We are determined to use the tools that are available to us to end this scourge. This law is one such tool.
The 2019 plan
In January, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the City Solicitor’s Office announced a partnership to begin – for the first time – actively investigating and prosecuting crimes under this law. The filing announced on Monday is the first such action by the City Law Department.
Originally sponsored by Council President Darrell L. Clarke and then-Council Member Donna Reed Miller, the Failure to Report Lost or Stolen Firearms” law was enacted in 2008.
The measure seeks to improve public security by focusing on the responsibilities of gun owners when they no longer are in possession of their guns. It requires owners of lost or stolen firearms to report the matter to the police within 24 hours after the loss is discovered.
The law also provides an additional tool to investigators when a firearm found at a crime scene is traced back to a previous owner who claims that the firearm had been stolen. These claims can be simple cover-ups of illegal transfers of firearms. The threat of sanctions for failure to report these thefts can help investigators discover the truth.
The full force of the law
According to the regulations, violators of the law are punishable by fines of up to US$2,000. The ordinance also states that a day that a violation continues is a separate offense. Repeat offenders can be prosecuted as a summary offense by the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) with up to 90 days in jail.
The ordinance requires owners of lost or stolen firearms to report the matter to police within 24 hours after the loss is discovered. The sooner the Police Department is notified of a missing firearm, the more likely the weapon can be taken off the streets and prevented from being used in a crime.
The protagonists speak
Council President Darrell L. Clarke, said, “We strongly support this civil action against an individual for failing to report a lost or stolen firearm to police as required by city law. “City Council has long supported the idea that Philadelphia must be able to take action to reduce and prevent gun violence and the presence of illegal guns on our streets. This is a step in the right direction to better protect our citizens from gun violence.”
District Attorney Larry Krasner said, “Gun violence is killing people and threatening the freedoms in America every day.”
According to his view, “the lack of a mandatory reporting lost or stolen firearms reporting requirement allows straw purchasers to feed guns to criminals and their organizations.”
That’s why he thanked “Council President Darrell L. Clarke, for his frustrating, decade-long commitment to passing and enforcing the City’s lost and stolen gun requirement.”
“I’m happy to be working with Mayor Kenney and the City to reduce gun violence by jointly enforcing lost and stolen gun reporting with the City. Prior DAO administrations declined to enforce it; we are on board. This is only one of many measures needed to address gun violence that is rooted in hopelessness among young people; we look forward to working with the Mayor and other government and community stakeholders on other measures to prevent violence.” The District Attorney said.
This interesting benchmark has a copy of the complaint that was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas which is available upon request.
City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt echoed these sentiments on behalf of the Department of Law, which will take these cases to court: “The Law Department’s attorneys are embracing this opportunity to partner with law enforcement in addressing the public health crisis of gun violence. We look forward to our continued collaborative effort in this progressive multi-faceted approach to making our City safer.”
Translated by: José Espinoza