By Jeremy Boren
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wilkinsburg lawmakers approved an ordinance Wednesday night that would penalize gun owners who fail to report to police their weapon has been lost or stolen within 24 hours.
If Mayor John Thompson signs it into law as expected, the borough would join Pittsburgh and five other Pennsylvania towns that have passed controversial rules designed to crack down on gun straw purchasers.
In two high-profile cases, the National Rifle Association has filed lawsuits to overturn versions of the law approved by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia city councils. Attorneys for the NRA have argued that state law, which regulates the "sale and transfer of firearms," overrides any city gun ordinances. The state Legislature failed to pass lost or stolen gun ban last year.
Wilkinsburg Councilwoman Denise Edwards said the specter of an NRA lawsuit doesn't intimidate her.
"You can't let the NRA drive the agenda for street safety," said Edwards, who joined in the 6-0 vote to pass the ordinance. "I think many Pennsylvania elected officials are coming to the conclusion that we have to take action to stem the amount of violence."
Wilkinsburg's ordinance differs slightly from Pittsburgh's version.
It offers first-time offenders an opportunity take gun safety training classes, potentially as a way to avoid a $500 fine and permanent criminal record if a judge approves, Edwards said.
Pittsburgh's version doesn't offer safety training. Subsequent offenses in both ordinances carry potential fines of $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
In addition to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Allentown, Pottsville, Reading and Harrisburg have passed laws penalizing those who don't report lost or stolen guns.