The proposal would have required gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours of learning they had gone missing and has prompted passionate protest from several city and county residents, who say the measure would be ineffective, unenforceable and illegal.
At the request of Mayor John Brenner, the council voted 3-2 to table the bill, with Genevieve Ray and Council President Joe Musso saying they wanted an up-or-down vote. Ray and Musso said they would have voted against the proposal because they don't feel it would be effective in fighting crime.
"I think (tabling) is a copout," Musso said. "It's an embarrassment to this council that we were led down this path. I say we end it right now, with a vote."
A similar measure passed last year in Philadelphia has been challenged by the NRA and is awaiting a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Pittsburgh, Allentown, Reading and other Pennsylvania cities have approved their own versions of the bill.
Brenner said Thursday that York City's provision is different than other versions of the bill, in that there is no penalty for breaking the rule unless an unreported gun is used in a crime.
He said he didn't understand Musso's "path" comment.
"What path are we on when our young people are being gunned down?" Brenner asked.
He said council members have been considering the bill since November and Musso hasn't suggested changes or proposed any better ideas.
Message to state: Councilwoman Toni Smith, who introduced the proposal, said keeping it alive will send a message to the state Legislature.
Pennsylvania law forbids local governments from passing any ordinances restricting the lawful use of firearms, but Smith, Brenner, York City Police Commissioner Mark Whitman and other proponents of the legislation hope the Legislature can be persuaded to adopt the rule at the state level.
State legislators "just don't seem to want to do their job," Smith said.
But Musso said Brenner, who first pushed for the measure, knew it would not survive a council vote and accused him of turning the council into a political tool.
"I'm concerned about us being used for political purposes, and I hate it. It turns my stomach," he said. "This is a lesson of what not to."
Brenner said Thursday that there is no "agenda" to his proposal but to keep the citizens of York safe. Police have provided statistics that show stolen guns are being used in homicides in York City, he said.
"If someone's car is stolen, if their TV is stolen, they will report it to the police," he said. "Responsible gun owners are already reporting (when a gun is lost or stolen). So, whose rights are we enfringing on? The characters who are assisting criminals? The criminals themselves? That's really the heart of this issue."
No 'easy solutions': Councilman Cameron Texter said he believed the legislation was fatally flawed, but he voted to table to show the state that it's an important issue.
"I think the Legislature can do more," he said. But "there's not going to be any easy solutions. Even if you passed something like this, you probably still would have the same problems out there."
Whitman encouraged the council not to vote on the measure yet.
"There's no reason to act at this juncture. (Tabling is) not going to hurt anyone," he said.
Texter promised the council would wait at least one meeting between taking the measure off the table and voting on it, giving people another chance to speak on the issue.
Several residents opposed to the legislation spoke at the meeting, with two holding signs saying "America believes in innocence until proven guilty," and "Citizens are expected to obey the law. So should the council."
- Staff writer Christina Kauffman contributed to this report. Reach Peter Mergenthaler at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.