Should reporting stolen guns be Mandatory in New Orleans?
According to NOLA.com, hundreds of guns are stolen from the hands of their legal owners every year across New Orleans, many of which are used in crimes. Local law enforcement leaders, including New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, say that stolen guns keep the region’s street gangs and criminals well-armed (NOLA.com).
In New Orleans and Jefferson Parish combined, three guns were reported stolen, on average, every day of 2015, according to NOLA.com. In New Orleans alone, more than 2,100 guns were reported stolen between 2012 and 2015. Nationally, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives the number of reported gun thefts is significantly less than the number of guns actually stolen.
The firearms black market in New Orleans is a complex, violent system that uses a myriad of methods to acquire firearms illegally and perpetuate violence within the city. Once a gun is stolen, it can be sold for cash, traded for drugs, or added to a street gang’s arsenal.
New Orleans Councilman James Gray plans to propose an ordinance to require gun owners to report lost or stolen funs to police, a move that would place the city among a small list of states and communities that have passed local laws to try to trace illegal weapons and reduce gun violence (NOLA.com). Gray’s proposal would legally require private gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms, since there is little that law enforcement can do to recover stolen firearms if they are not reported.
Since 164 people were murdered in New Orleans last year, 91 percent of which by gunfire, city officials and experts are weighing in on the importance of reporting gun theft to law enforcement agencies. NOLA.com asked many city officials their opinions on the new ordinance as well as gun control in New Orleans and the U.S..
Mayor Mitch Landrieu says: “I am a strong supporter of our 2nd amendment. I also believe common sense solutions can strike the right balance between lawful gun owners and public safety. We must get guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. To do so, we must close loopholes and require background checks for all gun show and online purchases. Secondly, we have to fund mental health care and securely connect mental health records to our background check system so that those who have been diagnosed as mentally ill are prevented from purchasing a firearm. Last and most important, we have to maintain targeted enforcement of violent criminals who commit crimes with a gun.”
Councilman Jason Williams says that he is in favor of Gray’s proposed ordinance, but doesn’t want to “criminalize the negligent behaviors of otherwise law-abiding citizens…The goal of any legislation is to keep illegal guns out of the hands of wrongdoers.”
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell is “very supportive of any measures that curtail” the supply of guns to criminals. She added: “It is clear to me that the level of gun violence in our city is a public health crisis…at the very least, we should try to foster a recognition that guns are always lethal even in capable hands and that gun ownership comes with adult responsibilities and legal requirements.”
The proposed ordinance comes at a time when gun control is a heavily debated political issue, in a city plagued by gun violence. Gray believes that mandating reports of stolen weapons would streamline law enforcements efforts to investigate gun-related crimes, allowing them to rule out the original owners as suspects in crimes in which their stolen guns have been used.
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