Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner on Wednesday announced his office will begin enforcing a 10-year-old ordinance requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms in an effort to limit straw sales of guns in the city.
No one has been prosecuted under the 2009 ordinance that requires people to report their guns lost or stolen within 24 hours, or face fines of up to $2,000 for a first offense and possible jail time for additional offenses.
Krasner announced there will be a 30-day amnesty period for anyone to report a gun lost or stolen, as long as there is not an investigation into its use.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “Somebody steals your gun, you lose your gun, you gotta get on the phone and call 911 to let them know what happened. That’s it. This is not something that regulates guns; it doesn’t regulate gun owners. This is something that regulates people who say they have lost their guns or say their guns have been stolen.”
Krasner said when a gun is involved in a crime and law enforcement officials identify the original buyer, too often their story is that they don’t know what happened to the weapon and they say it must have been lost or stolen.
But what actually has occurred in most cases, Krasner said, is that the gun was sold illegally and ends up in the hands of a person who used it to commit a crime.
“This is designed to bring some accountability to those bogus stories,” he said. “But it’s also designed to lift up the honest folks whose guns were lost or legitimately stolen. Now all they’ve got to do is lift up the phone and call 911.”
Asked why the ordinance had not been enforced by previous district attorneys Lynne Abraham and Seth Williams, Krasner, a vocal critic of the NRA, said their motivations could have been political or personal.
“I guess you could ask them,” Krasner said. “But I will say this, there certainly is a long history of prosecutors in the United States making decisions that were political and specifically about their own politics, their own clear advancement, and we are living in a state where it is considered that in order to run statewide you’ve got to be good with the NRA. So I can’t read their minds. I can certainly tell you I think any claim that they had good legal basis for not following it was disingenuous.”
Kim Burrell, a city resident who lost her son to gun violence in 2009, said she was glad to see the DA’s office intends to enforce the ordinance.
Burrell’s son, Darryl Pray, was 18 and the illegal owner of a gun at the time he was shot and killed by another man using an illegally purchased gun. The same day Pray died, Burrell said, another man using an illegally owned gun killed someone else in retaliation for her son’s murder.
All told, between retaliatory killings and jail sentences, Burrell said “eight men,” either by way of homicide or jail sentence, “in one way or another lost their lives in connection to my son’s death and none of these men (legally) owned the guns. That’s an atrocity to me.
“But the thing is,” Burrell continued, “imagine how many other mothers came after me. It might not have saved my son’s life. But the issue is that these illegal guns kill. It’s heartbreaking to know that this ordinance was in place for so long and not enforced.”