Friday, October 8, 2010
Proponents of stricter regulations surrounding lost or stolen handguns in Pittsburgh are waiting for what they hope is the final chapter of a court battle with the National Rifle Association. In 2008 city council passed a law to prevent straw purchasers who buy guys legally and then sell them to criminals, from claiming that guns traced back to them were lost or stolen. The measure requires gun owners to report their guns as lost or stolen within 24 hours of the incident and has a fine of $500 for a first offense of failure to report, and a top fine of $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail for additional offenses. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl allowed to the measure to become law without signing it because he believed it was pre-empted by state law. In July 2009 the NRA lost a challenge to the measure after Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Stanton Wettick Jr. said that the organization and the four local gun owners it represented didn't have the standing to oppose it. But he did not dismiss the legality of the law itself. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence took on the case pro bono on behalf of the city, and attorney Dan Vice calls the law common sense. "Gun owners report their guns stolen. They don't want a dangerous criminal using their gun to hurt someone. Gun traffickers don't. And they are the ones who can be prosecuted under this law." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is reviewing the case. The case is not without precedent; the NRA mounted a challenge when Philadelphia enacted a similar law -- it was upheld by the state Supreme Court.