The York City Council will take up an issue Tuesday that municipalities throughout the state have been dealing with: lost and stolen firearms.
The council will hold a committee meeting to discuss a proposed law that would require owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours. York Mayor John Brenner, a member of PA Mayors for Gun Safety, backs the proposal, which was introduced in November.
Brenner said Friday he'll be unable to attend the meeting because his second child is due Tuesday. But he is preparing a written statement and has invited two "special guests" to speak about the issue.
He declined to name them but said one is an elected official and the other is a lawyer. They are "top-notch individuals who have been wrestling with this issue in Pennsylvania," he said.
Several cities, including Pottsville, Allentown, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have passed similar laws. The city council in Easton, where the mayor also joined PA Mayors for Gun Safety, considered a proposal but did not pass it.
The Philadelphia law has been challenged in court. A state law prohibits municipalities from making their own gun laws.
Brenner said he thinks the proposed York law stands a better legal chance because the penalty only kicks in if an unreported weapon is used in crime. He believes the chances are even better if more municipalities adopt such legislation.
"The real fight is not in the courtrooms of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania," he said.
If the state would pass a lost-and-stolen law, cities wouldn't have to, he said.
A reporting law failed to pass during the last state legislative session.
State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester, said he voted in favor of it. He thinks a state law is the best option, but he understands why municipalities are taking it up, he said.
"A lot of mayors are frustrated that it didn't happen," he said. As of last week, he didn't know if anyone planned to introduce it again in the new legislative session.
The National Rifle Association believes lost-and-stolen requirements only "victimize the victim," said spokeswoman Rachel Parsons.
When municipalities make laws that are stronger than the state's, she said, it creates "a patchwork of gun laws that changes from city to city."
"It makes it nearly possible for citizens to comply or even know the law," she said.
Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFire PA, said his organization believes statewide legislation is needed.
CeaseFire will continue to push for that, but "we're not going to sit idly by and neither are the mayors," he said.
The intent is to get to straw purchasers who buy guns and illegally give or sell them to criminals, Grace said.
"This is a pretty simple matter," he said. "This is just one more tool, just one more step they can try to take to crack down on these straw sales."
Brenner said that, even if the municipalities' efforts fail in court or in the Legislature, it's worth trying.
"To me this issue is so important that it's worth the fight, and it's critically important that we as a community have an intelligent conversation about the illegal use of guns," he said.
IF YOU GO
What: York City Council police committee meeting to discuss a proposal that would require owners to report lost or stolen guns within 72 hours.
Where: City council chambers, 1 Marketway West, York
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
For more: Visit www.yorkcity.org. Click on "city council" and "committee information and calendars" to find the proposal on the January calendar.
ABOUT THE LAW
The proposal before York City Council requires that gun owners report lost or stolen guns within 72 hours after they are discovered missing. If an unreported gun is used in a crime, the owner can be fined up to $1,000, placed in jail for up to 90 days or both.