Columbia considering new rule requiring police to report lost and stolen firearms | Colombia News


COLOMBIA — Some Columbia City Council members have not waived local gun rules.

City leaders are considering an ordinance that would require residents to report lost or stolen firearms to police. The measure could go to council as early as August if it is found to be backed by state law, said Councilwoman Aditi Bussells, who is leading the campaign.

In March, Columbia City Council voted to repeal a 2019 set of gun restrictions, facing a lawsuit from state Attorney General Alan Wilson and pressure from state lawmakers threatening to withdraw funding. The restrictions included a so-called “red flag” law allowing the removal of firearms from people under extreme risk protection orders.

The city has submitted a draft of the new ordinance on reporting stolen or missing weapons to the attorney general’s office for review, Wilson spokesman Robert Kittle said.

The previous orders violated state law, which stated that local governments were not authorized to regulate “the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, firearm components, or any combination thereof,” according to the code. , essentially banning most local gun regulations.

Kittle said he was unsure whether this new proposal would fall within the scope of the law.

“It’s an interesting legal question,” Kittle said. “I don’t think it’s really clear.”

The attorney general’s office traditionally does not advise on ordinances before they are enacted, Kittle said, although it can advise at the request of an elected official.

The potential new order would attempt to reduce the number of violent acts committed with stolen weapons. So far this year, 108 firearms have been stolen from cars in Colombia, Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said in an email. Nationally, gun thefts from cars are on the rise, according to an analysis of FBI data by the group Everytown for Gun Safety.

“It’s something that we had consistently heard from law enforcement officials that it’s often very difficult to find lost firearms because people don’t report them,” Bussells said.

While it’s too early to know exactly how the ordinance would be enforced, Bussells said, it shows the city is working to move forward to prevent gun violence.

“I think it’s more about creating that safety environment and more declaring and advocating that it’s something important to us,” Bussells said.

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Councilman Howard Duvall called for more gun regulations as previous ones were repealed. He said he was not aware of any proposed new ordinances, but would be open to considering a settlement that falls under state law.

“I would be open to any suggestions as to how we can legally restrict the use of guns,” Duvall said, “but I think the state court pretty much said the state government has preempted gun regulation in any way by local governments, either county or city.”

In addition to the “red flag” rule, the repealed ordinances, passed in 2019, made it illegal to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school and made buildings where people built “phantom guns” subject to city nuisance laws.

The federal government has since banned kits used to assemble “ghost guns”, that people can assemble at home without background checks or serial numbers. Congress too adopted federal incentives states to create “red flag” laws.

Gun violence is a major issue for Bussells, who is a public health researcher. Bussells also spearheaded the city’s recent “Lock It Up” initiative, which distributes free gun locks and “cheat sheets” so people can easily record information about their gun to report if it’s lost or stolen.

'Lock It Up' campaign is latest in city and county gun safety initiatives

The “Lock It Up” initiative is part of a more community-based approach that city officials are taking to prevent gun violence. The city has partnered with the nonprofit Serve & Connect to distribute gun locks, discussed gang violence with the new group Getting A New Generation Started in Peace, and joined a church local and county for a recent gun buy-back event.

An ordinance would be another step by the city in promoting gun safety, Bussells said.

“Violence is a complex issue, but we all have to do our part,” Bussells said. “And at the city level, one of the best ways to continue to promote gun safety and address some of the violence we’ve seen is to put in place policies and procedures that allow us to have safeguards and address some of the root causes that we often see of why violence is happening.”

Contact Skylar Laird at (843) 830-1526. Follow her on Twitter @sky_latte_.


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