Lose a gun in Cleveland and fail to report it to police and you could face a $250 fine and 30 days in jail. In the 12 years that ordinance has been on the books, only two people have been taken to court, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That experience, and those of other cities, suggests that Pittsburgh’s proposed ordinance on reporting lost or stolen guns may not amount to much. The target is the so-called straw purchaser — someone with no criminal record who can therefore pass a background check and buy a gun, but then sell it or let it fall into the hands of someone who uses it for crime. When police trace that gun back to the original purchaser, that person often gets off the hook by claiming it was stolen or lost.
Gun control groups could not name a city that has aggressively enforced a lost or stolen gun reporting law. “It doesn’t work anywhere it has been tried,” said Rachel Parsons, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association. The group objects to the reporting laws because, she said, those whose guns were stolen “were already victimized, but we are going to criminalize [them] anyway.” Even though Cleveland has had so few cases, public safety director Martin Flask said the ordinance is “well crafted” and “has value” for the message it sends. “Most citizens who lose [a gun], or have a firearm stolen, report the loss to law enforcement,” he said.