State To Better Track Guns Used In Crimes As Violence Soars

Jul 11, 2019

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office launched an effort Thursday to improve the use of firearms databases, so law enforcement can better track guns used in crimes and, ultimately, clamp down on gun violence.

The move comes amid a surge in such violence in Philadelphia. The city's rate of homicides this year is about the same as it was in 2018, when Philadelphia recorded 349 of them, the most since 2007.

Speaking at a news conference in Erie, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he wants police departments to enter serial numbers from every gun used in a crime or seized by police into a law-enforcement database so that its original seller can be identified.

Most such guns aren't being entered, as the law requires, he said. Pennsylvania is one of few states with that kind of law.

"We actually have no idea how many crime guns were recovered in Pennsylvania last year, and that makes us all less safe," Shapiro said.

Most guns used in crimes change hands multiple times, and a small number of firearms are used in a large number of crimes, Shapiro said.

Shapiro also said his office wants retailers to submit gun-sale records electronically to get rid of a police backlog of paper records that are waiting to be entered into a database.

That will allow law enforcement to more quickly trace guns used in crimes, Shapiro said.

One source of the guns is the theft of legal guns from homes and vehicles, and part of the initiative will be to emphasize safe gun storage, Shapiro's office said.