Opponents of a proposed city gun law said Tuesday that York can't afford the legal challenges the law has the potential to draw.

A York City Council committee met to discuss a proposal, backed by the city administration, that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours after they discover them missing. A penalty would kick in if an unreported gun was subsequently used in a crime.

Supporters -- several who were invited to attend the meeting -- have said it would help crack down on straw purchasers that illegally sell or give guns to others.

Several municipalities in the state have adopted similar laws.

But some have questioned if doing so violates the state's pre-emption law, which says municipalities cannot make their own gun laws.

Jana Finder of CeaseFire PA said courts will have to decide the issue. Municipalities are trying to send the message that the state should tackle it, she said.

"This is of concern to so many municipalities . . . so please do something about it," she said.

But several people in the crowd said the city can't afford to try it.

"I think it's irresponsible of city council to pass an ordinance they know will be challenged," said John Stein, who owns property in the city and lives in Springettsbury Township. Philadelphia's law has been challenged in court.

Other residents and some council members questioned the effectiveness of the proposal.

"Straw purchasers are not law-abiding citizens," said Chris Buckingham of York.


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There are already laws against straw purchasing, so the city shouldn't need more, he said.

York City Police Commissioner Mark Whitman said the law would be just one more tool to help fight crime.

"It's going to require man hours, and we understand that," he said.

Thomas McMahon, mayor of Reading, said the law will help police identify patterns if illegal guns are traced to the same people over and over.

Several council members pointed out that the law would require proving whether a person really knew or did not know a firearm was missing. Finder said police make credibility determinations every day.

City resident Joanne Borders said the city needs something.

"Nobody's talking about the blood that's being shed through the City of York," she said. "We have to do something. If this law will give us an inch, let's take an inch."

amason@ydr.com; 771-2048

IF YOU GO

The proposed law regarding lost and stolen firearms will be considered by the York City Council at its next meeting, which starts 7 p.m. Jan 21.

Meetings are held in city council chambers, on the third floor at 1 Marketway West in York.