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Lost Bill: As a city councilor, Bill Peduto fired a shot for gun control. Was he shooting blanks? 

"Nobody should be afraid of enforcing a law"

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Pittsburgh officials aren't the only ones having second thoughts about lost-and-stolen laws. Thirty municipalities throughout Pennsylvania have passed bills similar to Pittsburgh's, according to gun-control advocacy group CeasefirePA. Not one of these municipalities has enforced it. 

Rob Conroy, Western Pennsylvania director of CeasefirePA, cites fear of litigation as the cause.   

"A lot of these communities were scared," he says. Against an opponent backed by a powerful group like the National Rifle Association, "They could basically be bankrupt from a lawsuit."

Conroy doesn't blame municipal leaders for their apprehension, especially since the state legislature is already weighing a measure to make it easier for groups like the NRA to sue. House Bill 2011 would let such organizations sue municipalities who have passed lost-and-stolen gun laws, even if no one has been charged under them. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in March and is currently pending in the House.

"This is designed to basically bankrupt the towns that have passed lost-or-stolen laws," Conroy says. "They're giving a special-interest group and all their members the power to file a lawsuit."

But Stolfer, of Firearms Owners Against Crime, says there's never been a reason to put such laws on the books in the first place.

"These laws have never worked anywhere," Stolfer says. "It's of no value to law enforcement. It's a demonization of the vast majority of the public who own firearms legally."

There are already laws on the books to punish a gun-owner whose weapon is used in a crime, he says: The lost-and-stolen ordinance was "a political statement," rather than a measure "meant to increase public safety. It's a public-relations stunt."

Some Peduto supporters, however, hold out hope the mayor will enforce the law. In 2011, members of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network marched on Ravenstahl's office to demand he enforce the legislation. Jane Siegel, who cochairs PIIN's gun-violence taskforce, says the group isn't ready to do the same with Peduto.

"What he has said is he's going to move forward with getting the statute implemented in as timely a way as possible," says Siegel. "It's a complicated matter. It's in the process of happening. He is not doing nothing."

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