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Politics & Government

Sen. Farnese To Harrisburg: Require Lost, Stolen Guns To Be Reported

Matt Rourke

Following the shooting of a police officer in Philadelphia in early January, one state lawmaker is calling on his colleagues to consider legislation that would mandate the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.

“We have no way right now to go out and prosecute and finish a prosecution of a lost or stolen gun, because there is no responsibility on a gun owner to report a lost or stolen gun,” said Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The gun used in the Jan. 8 shooting of Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett had been stolen from another police officer and reported in 2013. But Farnese said there are many crimes involving firearms in which a reporting law would help law enforcement.

“When a gun is illegally purchased on the black market and used by someone who is not legally entitled to do so, and those guns show up in homicides or crimes, you can trace those guns back to the perpetrator," Farnese said. "But all that perpetrator has to say that he or she lost (the gun) or the gun was stolen and there’s no ability there to prosecute them, and that’s a problem."

Federal law does not require gun owners to report loss or theft of the firearm to law enforcement, but licensed firearms dealers are required to report theft of their inventory.

Neighboring states of Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Delaware have mandated reporting laws in addition to Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan (thefts only) and Maryland (handguns and military-style weapons only).

The National Rifle Association, Friends of the NRA Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Rifle and Pistol Association did not return calls for comment, but in the past such groups have been outspoken critics of laws that they say restrict Second Amendment rights.

In response to mandates to report lost or stolen guns, opponents of such a move have said it could violate their Fifth Amendment rights to not self-incriminate and question whether it would be an effective deterrent to gun crime.

Farnese said he also supports President Barack Obama’s executive order on background checks for gun purchases. Farnese has not crafted legislation on required reporting at this time; he said he does plan on introducing gun safety bills in the future, but they will likely be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.