Missing Guns Must Be Reported

Proposal requires notice of stolen or lost weapons

January 02, 2018 - 10:52 am
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JANUARY 2, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

One of the many bills proposed for the 2018 legislative year is one that requires gun owners to report to law enforcement when their firearms are lost or stolen.

H 4467 was proposed by Representatives Robert Williams, D-Darlington, and Joseph Jefferson, D-Pineville:

A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, TO ENACT “LIZZY’S LAW” BY ADDING SECTION 16-23-540 SO AS TO REQUIRE AN OWNER OR OTHER PERSON LAWFULLY IN POSSESSION OF A FIREARM, RIFLE, OR SHOTGUN TO REPORT THE LOSS OR THEFT OF EACH SUCH WEAPON, TO REQUIRE THE APPROPRIATE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY TO COLLECT CERTAIN INFORMATION REGARDING A LOST OR STOLEN WEAPON, AND TO PROVIDE GRADUATED PENALTIES FOR THE FAILURE TO REPORT A LOST OR STOLEN WEAPON.

Springdale Police Chief Kevin Cornett, who has worked in law enforcement in several states and recently completed FBI training, said most weapons used in crimes are either stolen or obtained illegally.

“A majority of the crimes that we have involving firearms come from those firearms that are not obtained legally or were stolen, a lot of times from vehicle break-ins,” Cornett said. “Once they’re out on the street, we see innocent lives taken because those firearms are out there.”

The most recent numbers on stolen guns, conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2012, reported 1.4 million guns were stolen nationwide between 2005 and 2010. The report also said at least 80 percent of those guns were not recovered. It also concluded that a majority of property crimes committed with stolen weapons occurred in the South.

“I think with the amount of gun violence that we see in our nation, I think it’s real important that we look at steps to take to try to prevent gun violence and get guns off the street,” Cornett said.

“The criminal network that we deal with gets those weapons illegally and they’re going to sell them and they’re going to swipe the hands and however they decide to do a transaction with them, they’ll get out there and that’s what they’re using to commit the armed robberies, to commit the homicides that they’re doing that are involved in gang wars and things of those sorts,” Cornett said.

Once a gun is reported stolen, it is entered into the National Crime Information Center database, which can be accessed worldwide. Cornett said the information is vital to law enforcement officers.

“When it comes to weapons like this or something like this that has a potential to cause harm to other individuals because it’s out on the street, it’s so important for us to know so that we can keep our eyes open and look for it,” Cornett said. “When we do our validations we have to check and make sure that weapon is stolen every year with the victim because we really want to work to find it.”

“It can save our lives, because once we know that a firearm has been stolen or a firearm is missing — even if it’s missing, we want people to tell us,” he said. “That way we can get the information out to all of our law enforcement partners, we can get the information out to ATF, work with the local and federal agencies to track how many firearms that are out there that should not be.”

Although he said he’s pleased there’s an effort behind a law such as this, Cornett says he hopes this doesn’t mean a crime victim is penalized.

“I’m not a fan of penalizing a victim for being a victim. But I think if we don’t hold them accountable when a firearm is stolen and we know that we’ve got a gun out on the street that is going to be used most likely to harm another individual or take somebody’s life, I think there’s some negligence there if they don’t report it,” he said. “And if we have some way to get them to report it, I think we need to do so.”

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