Editor's Note: There is a major fight going on at the local level over a new law intended to keep guns out of criminal hands. Critics say it's just another case of legislating against the legal and responsible gun owners. Our Ed Lavandera has the report for part three of our American Morning original series, "The Gun Trail."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://blogs.cnn.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2010/02/gun-trail-cnn-art.jpg caption="Ed Lavandera reports on a controversial law about tracking lost and stolen guns."]
By Ed Lavandera, CNN
Jana Finder says not enough is being done to keep illegally trafficked guns off Pennsylvania's streets. This might be the heart of northeastern gun country.
Finder, along with a group called "Ceasefire PA," has launched a grassroots campaign to get local governments to sign on to what's become a highly controversial law, called "lost and stolen" ordinances.
Supporters of gun rights hate it. The ordinances require gun owners to report if their weapons have been lost or stolen, usually within 24 hours.
"There is very strong support from law officers,” says Finder. "They've told us this kind of requirement would give them another investigative tool to help crackdown and reduce the numbers of illegal handguns on our streets."
Finder says these laws target the number one source of guns for criminals – people with clean records who buy guns then supply them to street criminals; so-called "straw purchasers."
The battle over these ordinances is being waged in small towns all across Pennsylvania, in city council chambers like one we visited in Duqeusne, Pennsylvania.
Duquesne's city council was one of the latest to get behind it. So far, 25 Pennsylvania cities have adopted the ordinance.
"I think that doing this gives us a chance, maybe, to reduce violence in the city," says Phil Krivacek, Duqeusne’s mayor.
That "maybe" in the mayor's answer is what infuriates gun rights activists like Kim Stolfer and his grassroots group "Firearms Owners Against Crime."
"To come up with an idea and adopt it based on well, it might work is ridiculous. We wouldn't get into an airplane that might fly," says Stolfer. "The real problem here is that it's not illegal to lose a firearm, it's not illegal to have it stolen, but they want to prosecute you for being in that situation."
Supporters of the “lost and stolen” ordinance say it's a way of keeping a tighter watch on guns that go missing.
Gun control advocates say shootings have become too frequent across Pennsylvania. Six law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty last year alone. One police officer, Michael Crawshaw, was murdered with an AK-47 in a neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh. Investigators say the suspect was wearing an ankle bracelet – a parolee on drug and gun charges.
So far, more than 100 police departments have signed on to the “lost and stolen” ordinances, but not everyone in law enforcement thinks it's the answer. Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton says "lost or stolen" is just another "feel good law" that wouldn't have saved Officer Michael Crawshaw.
"We still have to realize we're dealing with a criminal element. No matter how many laws are out there, they're still going to be broken," says Burton.
No one has been prosecuted or convicted for violating the “lost and stolen" ordinances. Several have just recently passed, others are tied up in the courts and haven't been implemented yet.