PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia has filed the first enforcement action of its Lost or Stolen Gun Ordinance, which requires that owners of firearms promptly report missing weapons to the Philadelphia Police 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 safety by focusing on the responsibilities of gun owners when they no longer are in possession of their guns. It requires owners of firearms that are lost or stolen 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.
“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. We thank the District Attorney and City Council for partnering with us on this effort, and our Law Department for taking these cases to court.”
The law also provides an additional tool to investigators when a firearm found at a crime scene is traced back to a prior owner who claims that the firearm had been stolen. Such claims can be merely cover-ups for illegal transfers of the firearm. The threat of penalties for failure to report these thefts can help investigators ferret out the truth.
“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,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke. “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.”
In January of this year, 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 offenses under this law. The filing announced today is the first such action filed by the City’s Law Department.
“Gun violence is killing people and threatening the freedoms of communities in America every day. The lack of a mandatory lost or stolen firearms reporting requirement allows straw purchasers to feed guns to criminals and their organizations,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “I’m grateful to Council President 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.”
Violators of the law are responsible for fines of up to $2,000. Each day a violation continues is a separate offense. Repeat offenders can be prosecuted as a summary offense by the DAO with up to 90 days in jail.
City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt echoed these sentiments on behalf of the Law Department, which will be taking 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.”
A copy of the complaint that was filed in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is available upon request.