WANTED: ENFORCEMENT—Pittsburgh councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto calls on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to enforce the five-year-old Lost and Stolen Gun law in an effort to stop street killings. Joining him, from left: State Rep. Ed Gainey, D- East Liberty, Tree of Hope Founder Adrienne Young, Rev. John Welch of PIIN and Rev. Tyrone Munson of Olivet Baptist Church. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
As Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new multi-million dollar apartment complex in East Liberty, mayoral candidate Councilman Bill Peduto stood in a vacant Homewood lot at the intersection of Kelly and Sterrett Streets talking about reducing gun violence by enforcing the city’s lost and stolen gun law.
Though only about a mile apart in distance, Peduto said the contrasting events showed an even greater divide in priorities.
“Gun violence is costing us our city and our young people,” he said. “We can do something about it. The fact that we are not is unacceptable. I am calling on the Mayor to see that the law I authored, and that he as a member of Mayors against Gun Violence seemingly supports, is enforced.”
Council passed Peduto’s Lost and Stolen Gun reporting law in November 2008. Though Ravenstahl did not sign it, neither did he veto it. As such, it automatically became law in 2009, requiring city residents to report a lost or stolen gun to police within 48 hours. Failure to do so could subject the owner to a $500 fine for the first offense, and a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail for each subsequent offense.
Because the law runs counter to the state constitution, in that “only the general assembly, not city councils” is responsible for gun legislation, Ravenstahl said the law was illegal and therefore unenforceable. So far, however, the only legal challenge came from the NRA and was defeated.
Tree of Hope founder Adrienne Young, who lost her son to gun violence in 1996, joined state Rep. Ed Gainey, D- East Liberty, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network President Rev. John Welch, and Rev. Tyrone Munson of Olivet Baptist Church in the Hill District in supporting Peduto’s call for enforcement.
“My son was killed for $5 with a ‘stolen’ gun,” she said. “The killer got it from a jitney station. The owner said it was stolen but only after the fact. Unless we want to see more tragedies in our community, we have to enforce this.”
Peduto said the rationale for his legislation is to get illegal guns off the street, and to stop the purchase and resale of guns by legal “straw buyers” to criminals who cannot legally purchase a gun.
“About 70 percent of the guns recovered by police used in crimes are lost or stolen,” said Peduto. “But less than half are reported.”
Gainey said enforcing the law is just one part of crafting responsible gun laws.
“We’ve closed the Florida (reciprocal gun license) loophole, and we need to do this,” he said. “We’re losing our children. This has to be enforced.”
Reverend Welch praised Peduto’s effort and called those who would not support it “fearful.”
“Anyone with courage and moral turpitude must stand with him,” he said. “People who look like me, the clergy that looks like me, they need to step up.”
Reverend Munson said he has been preaching about Blacks killing each other with guns since he was 16 in Louisiana.
“This isn’t about politics, or Black and White. It’s about saving young folk,” he said. “Something needs to be done now.”
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