Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund

We’re here today to announce the launch of the Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund. This is in response to a lawsuit against the City filed earlier this week by the Virginia-based National Rifle Association. This NRA action is being taken against the City for an Ordinance adopted in 2009 that requires city residents to report a lost or stolen gun within three days of discovering that it’s missing.

I stand here today with our City Council members to tell City taxpayers – and the Pennsylvania General Assembly – why we need this simple, common sense ordinance and why we’re fighting against this attack by the gun lobby.

First, this ordinance in no way undermines or limits the rights of any law-abiding gun owner. The purpose of this ordinance is to take away an alibi for people who buy guns for those who are prohibited from legally owning a firearm. These illicit buys are called “straw purchases.” In a 2013 news report, District Attorney Craig Stedman said “House burglaries in which firearms are stolen and then sold on the street is a large problem.” That same article reports that a Gun Violence Task Force created in 2006 by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett found a clear trend where “A significant number of women, often girlfriends or drug users, purchased guns for men with criminal records.”

Second, continued failure on the part of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to take any meaningful action with respect to illegal guns, forces local elected officials to take action. In 2007, state legislation was introduced that would make it mandatory statewide that lost or stolen guns be reported to police. That law never made it out of committee. Instead, Pennsylvania lawmakers gave the gun lobby the very tool they’re now using to sue cities across the Commonwealth. State law signed by Governor Corbett late last year allows the NRA to sue cities and collect damages if local ordinances such as Lancaster’s are not repealed. When this legislation was first introduced, the Prime Sponsor claimed that the law was needed “to stop little tyrants at the local level from enacting their own gun-control measures.”

I ask, ‘How many funerals must we attend for victims of gun violence involving a stolen gun? How many parents must consoled who’ve lost a child to errant bullets shot from a stolen gun? Where is common sense in this debate?”

We do not take this lawsuit lightly. We recognize the drain this will be on City resources and City taxpayers. At the same time, we believe that standing by this ordinance is the right thing to do. We are responsible for the safety of those City taxpayers – a responsibility we intend to fulfill.

I call on those who believe that common sense must prevail, to support the Common Sense Lancaster Legal Defense Fund. Thank you for your interest. 

J. Richard Gray, mayor