House Bill 1847, sponsored by State Representatives Larry Hall (D-29), Earl Jones (D-60), and Paul Luebke (D-30), is a bill that would require law-abiding gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm to police or face criminal prosecution.
This piece of legislation, which is scheduled for a hearing at 3:00 PM on Monday, May 14, in the House Judiciary I Committee, is not only outrageous, but it is completely unnecessary and potentially damaging to true criminal investigations. It is outrageous in the way it treats the victims of a crime. In fact, this legislation could be called the "Crime Victim Double-Victimization Act," as it would treat anyone who has had a firearm stolen as a common criminal if he or she fails to report the theft within 48 hours of when the crime victim "knew or reasonably should have known of the theft or loss." Who is to determine when the clock starts ticking? What is the criteria to determine when someone "reasonably should have known of the theft or loss"?
This bill is also unnecessary, at least as it relates to honest citizens. Any law-abiding citizen who has had a firearm stolen must report the theft in order to make an insurance claim. Why would one not report the theft of personal property? Whether that report is made within the 48-hour time period dictated by HB 1847, or if the crime victim reports the theft 52 hours after realizing a crime has been committed makes little difference to those investigating the crime. The only people who likely would not report a stolen firearm are those violent criminals already prohibited from owning them. They certainly are not going to report such a loss to the police.
But the damage to true criminal investigations this bill could do is unconscionable. This legislation could very well create an escape clause for real criminals. Proponents of this legislation claim it will help reduce gun trafficking, with the concept being that "straw purchasers" who are not prohibited from purchasing a firearm will purchase a gun, then give or sell it to someone who is prohibited from buying a firearm. The legislation, in theory, would allow police to prosecute a "straw purchaser" who no longer possesses a purchased firearm that has turned up in a crime, and failed to report the gun "lost or stolen." In reality, should this legislation pass, it would give such "straw purchasers" an ironclad defense against charges of illegal "gun trafficking." All one would need to do is report the "loss or theft" of a firearm that has been transferred to a prohibited individual, and if the gun does ever turn up in a crime, the "straw purchaser" can claim it was "lost or stolen," and reported as the law requires. In other words, another name for this law could be the "Gun Trafficker's Protection Act."
HB 1847 is a main legislative objective of the anti-gun North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV), and must be defeated.
Please plan to attend the House Judiciary I Committee Meeting at 3:00 PM on Monday, May 14. The meeting will be held in Room 1228 of the Legislative Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh. If you cannot attend the meeting, please be sure to contact Committee Members and urge them to oppose HB 1847. For the names of Committee Members, as well as contact information, please go here.