DA Krasner looking for fight with NRA over ‘lost/stolen gun’ law

Philly DA Larry Krasner, at podium, announces he will begin enforcing a city ordinance requiring lost or stolen guns to be reported, despite the NRA blocking it from enforcement for the past decade. (Sam Newhouse)

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner announced on Wednesday that his office is planning to begin enforcement of Philadelphia’s “lost and stolen firearms” ordinance, which ironically has itself been lost to the public since being enacted into law in 2009. 

The ordinance is a decade old and requires gun owners to report any lost or stolen firearm to authorities within 24 hours, or face a fine of $2,000. Repeat offenders can face another $2,000 fine and up to 90 days in prison. The ordinance is intended to help damp down on what Krasner and others said is one source of illegal guns in Philadelphia — legal purchasers reselling their guns and later claiming they were lost or stolen.

The law has never been enforced in Philadelphia, Krasner and others said, because former Philly prosecutors were cowed by NRA legal actions to oppose the ordinance as unconsitutional grounds.

“The mayor [then Michael Nutter] was ready, [former Police Commissioner Charles] Ramsey at that point in time was ready, we were ready to move ahead,” City Council President Darrell Clarke, who along with former Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller introduced the ordinance to help crack down on gun violence and got it enacted in 2009, said at a Wednesday press conference at Krasner’s office. “Lynne Abraham, who was DA at the time of this conversation, basically said she wasn’t going to do it. The subsequent DA [Seth Williams] indicated during the course of the election that he was going to do it, but after he got elected, for whatever reason, we got a similar response, that because of the Constitution, he wasn’t prepared to proceed. Luckily, this DA puts people … ahead of that particular mindset.”

As Krasner, Clarke and others explained it Wednesday, the former Philly DAs either didn’t think enforcement of the ordinance would withstand legal challenges filed by the NRA, or wanted to maintain a positive reputation in pro-NRA political circles. (Neither Abraham, who is retired, or Williams, currently serving five years in federal prison on corruption charges, could be reached for comment.)

“What we really need is the Pennsylvania legislature and the United States government to stand up to the NRA and do the right thing, but we are going to operate within our lane to do as much as we can,” Krasner said. “The positions the NRA has taken are similar to saying we cannot have license plates on cars, we cannot do inspections of cars, and we can’t even regulate the age of the drivers or whether or not they can see. Their position on reasonable approaches to regulation of guns is absurd. … Its foolishness is out of touch with what people who appropriately handle and own guns believe.”

Representatives of the NRA did not immediately comment on Krasner’s announcement, but did previously file an injunction to block this ordinance, and have as recently as 2015 filed Philadelphia to block local gun control ordinances.

The Philly DA said he expects their response to be like a “loud screeching noise of a broken engine.” He further jabbed at them for being investigated over “their involvement with Russian money” and noted their “difficulties in collecting donations, which I guess is what happens when you’re in favor of more and more guns completely unregulated in the middle of a spate of school shootings across the country.”

As for the lost/stolen gun ordinance, Philly Police Commissioner Richard Ross backed up Krasner’s assertions that at least in some case, guns used in crime are traced back to Philly residents who “lost” them or had them “stolen,” but never contacted police, and may have in fact illegally resold the guns.

“Don’t think that everyone who sells a gun is a trafficker. They may be an opportunist,” Ross said.

Krasner also said a 30-day amnesty will be in place before the law takes effect, during which people can contact authorities to report any previously lost or stolen guns without facing repercussions under this ordinance, unless those weapons relate to an active investigation. To report a stolen or missing gun, call 911 or contact your local police district.