Stolen Guns, Stolen Lives: Gun Theft From Legal Owners on the Rise, Leading to Violence - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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Stolen Guns, Stolen Lives: Gun Theft From Legal Owners on the Rise, Leading to Violence

A yearlong investigation by The Trace and more than a dozen NBC TV stations identified more than 23,000 stolen firearms recovered by police between 2010 and 2016 — the vast majority connected with crimes.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stolen Guns, Stolen Lives: Why Doesn't PA Require Reporting of Stolen Guns?

    There's no law in Pennsylvania that requires people to report stolen guns. George Spencer and the NBC 10 Investigators ask why.

    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017)

    Julie Patel lost her son Steven Mitchell in 2014 to gun violence in 2014. A second son, Josh Mitchell, died in the same epidemic earlier this fall.

    Both suffered fatal wounds from attackers armed with stolen guns in the Montgomery County slayings. As is often the case with a stolen gun, the firearm recovered in Josh Mitchell's homicide in Phoenixville in September had its serial number scratched out. The uncertainty of the origin of the instrument of destruction adds to Julie Patel's grief.

    "There are so many answers I would like to know," she said. "And there is nobody who has the answers."

    Thousands of victims of crime across the country, and family members like Julie Patel, have suffered at the hands of stolen guns, their pain magnified when investigators tell them that firearms used in crimes have nefarious backstories.

    In Pennsylvania, law enforcement deals with stolen guns used in the commission of a crime that came from previous owners who never even reported the firearms missing. The state has no law requiring such notification by gun owners. New Jersey and Delaware do.

    But the problem is not limited to the Keystone State.

    A yearlong investigation by The Trace and more than a dozen NBC TV stations identified more than 23,000 stolen firearms recovered by police between 2010 and 2016 — the vast majority connected with crimes.

    That tally, based on an analysis of police records from hundreds of jurisdictions, includes more than 1,500 carjackings and kidnappings, armed robberies at stores and banks, sexual assaults and murders, and other violent acts committed in cities from coast to coast.

    Those numbers don't reflect many hundreds more municipalities that don't track stolen weapons, and aren't required to, including Philadelphia. The city refused a NBC10 request for its tracking data.


    Some state lawmakers in Harrisburg are trying to close Pennsylvania's loophole in firearm tracking. State Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Abington, introduced a bill in March that would require gun owners to report to authorities within 72 hours their guns lost or stolen.

    The proposed legislation hasn't even been given a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

    "It's utterly frustrating," Dean said. "It makes me think that special interests control our voting schedule."

    Dean's colleague who specifically controls what bills go before the committee, Rep. Ron Marsico, a Republican from Dauphin County, declined to give NBC10 the reason why the bill has yet to receive a hearing.

    Marsico gets an "A-plus" rating from the National Rifle Association, which has donated to his campaigns for re-election.

    In a brief interview, he said a similar bill died in the Legislature a decade ago, so this time around, he wanted to "informally" survey his committee members before giving it a hearing.

    He later told NBC10 he planned to give the bill a hearing in early 2018.