IMG_7714, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from StephenVelasco’s photostream

While Pittsburgh’s overall violent crime and homicide rates are low compared to peer cities, some neighborhoods have the highest violent crime rates in the nation and are plagued by illegal guns. We must change this.

Pittsburgh’s overall murder rate is 3.8 per 100,000, yet for young African American men the rate is 285 per 100,000 – more than 60 times the citywide rate. We must focus reforms to the communities that are suffering the most.

1. Enforcing the Lost & Stolen Guns Law

We first must enforce existing laws. In 2010, City Council passed a law requiring residents to report any lost or stolen guns to police within a reasonable period of time. More than 40 cities in Pennsylvania, seven states, and the District of Columbia have similar laws or resolutions. Mayor Ravenstahl never signed the law and has refused to implement it.

Most guns used to commit crimes were purchased legally and were lost or stolen, eventually ending up in the hands of a criminal. If a gun is lost or stolen the police should be informed. Aggressively implementing this law gives police tools they need to get illegal guns off the streets.

2. Cracking Down on Gun Trafficking

More than a quarter of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ (ATF) illegal gun trafficking investigations involve lost or stolen guns. An ATF investigation in 2007 showed that, in a random sample of about 10% of federally-licensed gun dealers, more than 30,000 guns had gone missing from their inventories. More than 600,000 guns are stolen from private homes every year.

Lost and stolen weapons are a serious threat to our communities and the numbers are staggering. It is the responsibility of all gun owners and dealers to provide law enforcement with the information they need to track down these guns and remove them from use.

3. Training & Public Awareness

Two key steps are a coordinated public education campaign to inform residents of their responsibility under the law and to train public safety officials in compliance. When these two are achieved, we can begin taking the fight to the straw purchasers who make a living dealing lost and stolen guns.

Lost & Stolen gun reporting has been endorsed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Ceasefire, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and other national organizations. It is time Pittsburgh starts using the tools at our disposal to identify stolen guns, trace them to the criminals that are using them, and remove them from our streets once and for all.