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Gun owners say proposed law targets them, not thieves

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Sep 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-24 15:10:00-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - The Virginia Beach City Council plans to ask state lawmakers to hold accountable gun owners who don't quickly report firearms lost or stolen, an idea that is already running into opposition.

The request to the General Assembly is part of the Council's "Legislative Agenda," a wish-list of issues and concerns the city's leaders would like to see made into law. The proposal seeks to make it a Class 1 misdemeanor if a gun owner does not report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours.

Gun-rights advocates say the proposal does nothing to address the number of stolen guns used in crimes and would instead focus police attention on the legal gun owners when a pistol goes missing.

"It would make the gun owner a victim twice," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve run off the rails on the logic on this."

Nine states and the District of Columbia require some form of reporting when a gun is lost or stolen, according to Smartgunlaws.org. Virginia does not require private citizens to report missing firearms. Robert Marcus, owner of Bob's Gun and Tackle in Norfolk and president of the Virginia Firearms Dealers Association said laws in those states have done nothing to enhance public safety. This proposal, he said, is misplaced.

"What that request tells me is they’ve done all they are going to do to the criminals, now they are going after honest citizens," Marcus said.

In addressing the General Assembly, the city's proposal says, "Every year, in Virginia Beach, many guns are lost or stolen and used for criminal purposes by those that come into possession of them." The proposal does not cite any gun-theft numbers from Virginia Beach or the state. The document cites a national gun-theft estimate from 1994.

Last year, the ATF released a report that shows there were about 4,000 guns reported lost or stolen in Virginia in 2012. That report listed just over 190,000 guns reported missing or stolen nationwide that same year.

Councilman Jim Wood, whose name is on the proposal, declined to address the request. Wood, a former Virginia Beach police officer who frequently champions public-safety issues, said he did not believe WTKR would treat him fairly.

Both Marcus and Van Cleave said they don't believe the General Assembly will consider the request.