PHILADELPHIA (January 2019) — The Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was joined by civic and community leaders to announce a new partnership to begin enforcing Philadelphia’s ordinance requiring that individuals report a lost or stolen firearm to law enforcement authorities. This previously unused enforcement mechanism, sponsored by Council President Darrell L. Clarke and former Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, was enacted in 2009 and focuses on gun owners, not guns, as a tool to improve public safety.
“I will stand with any elected official who stands up to the NRA,” said Larry Krasner, Philadelphia District Attorney. “This law has been on the books for years but has not been utilized by prosecutors for political reasons. The prosecutions that will come from this law will be one more multi-pronged step that we can take to make our city a safer place to live and work.”
Investigations into lost and stolen guns will begin with a trace of gun ownership by the Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF), which is a partnership between the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. The GVTF will determine if the gun was lost or stolen and therefore should have been reported to authorities. If it’s a first-time offense, the case will be referred to the City Solicitor’s Office for a civil violation with a fine of up to $2,000. If the individual is a repeat offender, it will be prosecuted as a summary offense by the DAO with up to 90 days in jail.
“I want to thank the community activists who have been with us in the fight against gun violence for decades, who refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer even as majorities in our Congress and in the Pennsylvania General Assembly told us ‘no’ again and again. We have always rejected everyday gun violence as normal for our City. And in District Attorney Krasner, we have one more leader on the front lines standing up for Philadelphia,” Council President Clarke said. “I also want to thank Commissioner Ross and the officers of the Philadelphia Police Department who go out every day to protect the public knowing they are put in danger by illegally owned firearms. Today we’re putting the public on notice: If your firearm is lost or stolen, you could be held responsible for how these missing firearms are used — even if by someone else. Be a responsible citizen — or at least a self-interested one — and report any lost or stolen firearms you are aware of right away.”
Starting today, there will be a 30-day amnesty period for people to report their guns as lost or stolen, with the exception of firearms where there is already an investigation underway by law enforcement,P or the investigation is initiated by other sources. Gun owners should report their weapons lost or stolen to the Philadelphia Police Department by dialing 9–1–1.
“Proactive enforcement of these local ordinances is among the numerous approaches to combating the prevalence of gun violence in Philadelphia. The ordinances, which were authored by Council President Clarke, and will be prosecuted under DA Krasner’s administration, directly address the issue of the obtainability of firearms through illicit means. We expect this initiative to have an appreciable impact on crimes involving illegally possessed firearms in our City,” said Richard Ross, Philadelphia Police Commissioner.
“The Law Department embraces the opportunity to join its fellow city law enforcement agencies in addressing the public health crisis of gun violence. We look forward to our continued collaborative effort in this progressive multi-faceted approach to making our City safer,” said Marcel S. Pratt, Philadelphia City Solicitor.
The law, which is called Failure to Report Lost or Stolen Firearm (§ 10–838a) is part of the Philadelphia Administrative Code, includes:
- Prohibited Conduct. No person who is the owner of a firearm that is lost or stolen shall fail to report the loss or theft to an appropriate local law enforcement official within 24 hours after the loss or theft is discovered.
- Penalties. A violation of this Section shall be deemed a Class III Offense, subject to the penalties set forth in Section 1–109.
- Repeat Offenders. Any person who commits, on more than one occasion, a violation of this Section, shall be guilty of a separate offense of Repeat Violation, and for each such Repeat Violation, shall be subject to a fine of not more than one thousand nine hundred dollars ($1,900) for any violation committed in 2008, and not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) for any violation committed in 2009 or thereafter, or imprisonment for not more than ninety (90) days, or both. A person shall be guilty of a Repeat Violation regardless whether the second or subsequent violation occurs before or after a judicial finding of a first or previous violation. Each violation, after the first, shall constitute a separate Repeat Violation offense.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually.