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Mayors pledge to enact tough gun laws

READING - A regional coalition of mayors yesterday announced a joint effort to enact local gun legislation, following the lead of Philadelphia officials.

READING - A regional coalition of mayors yesterday announced a joint effort to enact local gun legislation, following the lead of Philadelphia officials.

Members of the coalition, PA Mayors for Gun Safety, pledged to introduce legislation in their cities that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons or be subject to possible fines and/or jail time.

The announcement was made at a news conference at City Hall here. The group includes Mayor Nutter and the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Lancaster, Reading, Pottsville and York.

The mayors said they were following in the footsteps of Philadelphia, which passed legislation involving lost or stolen weapons in April.

"Are we going to sit there and wait for the state to give us the laws, or are we going to do something about it?" said Mayor Sal Panto of Easton. "Thankfully, Philadelphia has done something about it."

The group initiative is not only a proposal to reduce gun violence in the cities but also an effort to put pressure on the legislature to enact statewide gun legislation, the mayors said.

The coalition evolved out of work done by the mayors as part of a gun-violence task force within the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. The mayors - all Democrats - said they would introduce legislation in their cities over the next several weeks. They also said that they were prepared to be sued.

C. Scott Shields, an attorney for the National Rifle Association, argued that the proposed legislation violates state law that prevents local governments from enacting their own gun legislation. Proposed legislation that would have empowered local governments to enact gun-control laws was defeated last year.

Shields said the NRA would likely sue the municipalities if they enacted what he termed "illegal gun laws."

Nutter argued that the state legislation that limits the power of local governments to pass gun legislation governs "lawful weapons." The legislation proposed by the mayors' coalition involves "lost or stolen weapons," Nutter said.

In April, Nutter signed five gun laws, three of which Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan upheld in Common Pleas Court after legal challenges by the NRA. The city and the NRA have filed separate appeals in Commonwealth Court of Greenspan's rulings.

One of the upheld laws gives gun owners 24 hours to report stolen weapons after the owners discover the firearms are missing. Failure to comply could result in fines up to $1,900 and 90 days in jail. The law went into effect last month.

Legislation to be proposed by the coalition of mayors would require reporting within 72 hours of discovery and would impose fines of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.

Several gun-control measures considered by the state assembly since November have been defeated, including a proposal that would require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen weapons. But a bill increasing penalties against "straw" purchasers, who buy guns for felons, passed the state House in April.

Nutter and Mayor Tom McMahon of Reading said they hoped to expand the coalition to include mayors regardless of their political party from other cities, including Pittsburgh, Erie and Williamsport.