Pennsylvania’s attorney general is trying to convince firearms dealers and police precincts around the commonwealth to do a more effective job tracking guns—an effort he hopes will eventually help reduce gun crimes.
He stood on the state Capitol steps Thursday with a grab-bag of representatives—among them a state police major, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and a gun-control advocate—in an effort spread the word on a program he launched several weeks ago.
The initiative, which Shapiro is calling “Track and Trace,” has two major objectives.
First, the AG wants police to identify where a gun used in a crime came from, and to enter that information into a statewide database.
It’s already required under law, but Shapiro said many officers don’t know that. He said before the initiative started, just 300 of the state’s 1,200 law enforcement agencies were using the database.
“I’ll be honest with you,” he told reporters, “the Office of Attorney General, prior to my arrival in January of 2017, we were not inputting our guns into the electronic database.”
Shapiro is also urging firearms dealers to report gun sales to state police electronically, instead of by snail mail.
Major Douglas Burig, with the State Police, says old-fashioned mailing just takes too long.
“It’s a very time-intensive process, and we currently have a nine to 12-month backlog of paper forms waiting to be entered,” he said.
He said right now, only 24 percent of licensed firearm dealers submit their records of sales online.
Shapiro said it’s too soon to tell whether gun dealers and police are adopting the recommended policies.
But he added that so far, he’s gotten good feedback.