A coalition of mayors from across the region has joined forces to support new measures to increase gun safety.In a press conference held on Sept. 16, Reading Mayor Tom McMahon announced he would introduce to the city council a local ordinance on holding gun owners responsible for reporting a lost or stolen gun.
A similar ordinance was proposed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and passed earlier this year despite opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The ordinances will require citizens to report a lost or stolen gun within an allotted time frame ranging from 24 to 72 hours from the time of discovery depending on the area. McMahon's ordinance will require police notice within a 24-hour time period.
McMahon said the move is just the first step toward a statewide law that would protect the public and law enforcement and avoid the epidemic of third-party purchases.
The mayors from areas such as Allentown, Pottsville, Easton, York, Bethlehem and Lancaster announced they too would be adopting a similar ordinance to their own city councils at their next meeting.
In a recent poll of six legislative districts, 96 percent of Pennsylvanians, including 92 percent gun owners, supported a lost or stolen gun-reporting requirement, according to McMahon.
The National Rifle Association does not support the local ordinances, citing violation of the second amendment right.
The mayor's coalition is hoping that a state bill proposed in 2007 that was tabled by the House Judiciary committee will be re-considered next session on gun safety.
"There is no rational argument to oppose it. For law-abiding individuals it is common sense," Nutter said. "We must uphold the law and protect our citizens. This is not about the second amendment. This is not just a Philadelphia problem. I commend the mayors efforts today."
McMahon described a recurring scenario in Reading in which girlfriends are buying guns for their boyfriends and then pretending they had no idea the boyfriend had "stolen" the gun.
The theme of the press conference was that this ordinance, which they hope to become a law, is only common sense. It was described as an opportunity to reduce the safe haven that Pennsylvania has become for criminals to purchase illegal guns. In fact, it has been said that Pennsylvania has a reputation that goes beyond state lines.
"If the state won't give us the tools then we have to do something about it," said Mayor Salvatore J. Panto of Easton. "Who in their right mind wouldn't want to report if there is a theft? I hope the state recognizes our initiative so we aren't known as the state that allows illegal purchases."
Mayor John B. Callahan of Bethlehem applauded McMahon and Nutter for their leadership.
"Gun owners must be held accountable because there is a responsibility that comes with gun ownership," he added.
Mayor J. Richard Gray of Lancaster shared a unique perspective because of his background as a criminal defense lawyer.
"I saw the difficulty police have in proving certain crimes and stolen guns are extremely difficult to prove," Gray said. "It is time to take the excuse away from the person who wants to purchase for a third party. State Representatives don't have the courage to do it."
In Lancaster mandatory minimum sentences include 90 days per bullet for gun owners who fail to report, said Gray, "because guns are terrorizing our neighborhoods. We must do what is right rather than what is politically expedient."
For gun owners and sportsmen, Mayor John S. Brennan of York wanted to assure them that the proposed ordinance will not be an infringement of any rights.
"As an Eagle Scout, I wouldn't support something that would go against the legitimate sportsmen," Brennan said. "There are too many residents and police officers caught in the crossfire," he said. "Legislators need to get off their tail to do something. The police strongly support it. We need help from Harrisburg."
Mayor Nutter added, "They (the NRA) have crossed the line protecting criminals. I thought their primary mission was to support those who engage in sport. The theory is that the next thing will be to come get grandpop's rifle. But we see the death and destruction (in Philadelphia.)"