Mayor to introduce ordinance targeting gun owners who leave guns unsecured in unlocked cars

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At his Aug. 22 weekly press briefing, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson reiterated his intention to introduce a local ordinance that would penalize gun owners who leave their cars unlocked, which makes it easy for their guns to be stolen and used in the commission of a crime.

Although the final draft of the ordinance has not been written, Johnson outlined what the ordinance might entail. The legislation would require gun owners to securely store their firearms without making them visible. It would also require gun owners to report the theft or loss of a firearm within 24 hours of the discovery of the theft or loss, said Johnson. The mayor added that there will be a public awareness campaign that urges citizens to lock their cars and secure their weapons.

“It’s low hanging fruit,” said Johnson. “It is an opportunity to decrease the thefts [and the] illegal firearms. The shootings also, we believe, will decrease as well.”

According to Savannah Police Department statistics as of Sept. 2, there have been 176 guns stolen out of vehicles ― 82% of those vehicles were unlocked. , compared to 28 in 2022, and 22 in 2021. Approximately 90% of the weapons stolen from cars in 2022 and 2021 were taken from unlocked automobiles.

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Handguns stolen from vehicles are often later used in the commission of a crime.

Handguns stolen from vehicles are often later used in the commission of a crime.

‘It’s about accountability and responsibility’

Savannah Police Department (SPD) spokesperson Neil Penttila said SPD doesn’t track which firearms stolen from vehicles eventually are used in the commission of crimes. Gun tracking data is done through the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), but even that data does not specify if the crime guns recovered were stolen.

Thus far in 2023, there have been 13 homicides, compared to 23 at this point each of the prior two years. There have also been fewer total violent crimes this year than last, but slightly more than two years ago. This year, there have been 849 total violent crimes, compared to 861 last year and 793 in 2021, according to SPD statistics.

“It’s just about accountability and responsibility,” said Sgt. Aaron Washington, SPD’s Supervisor of Property Crimes. Of the property theft cases that involve stolen guns that Washington investigates, he said 90% come from unlocked cars. The other cases are smashed windows and bypass devices, technology that automatically unlocks most cars, said Washington.

“You don’t want to make it easy for the criminal; you want to make it harder,” said Washington.

In at least one aspect, however, state law handcuffs Johnson.

Georgia’s firearms preemption law dictates that only the state legislature can regulate “possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or other weapons or components of firearms or other weapons.”

But local governments bear much of the emotion, social and economic brunt of gun violence. “We’re not going to wait for the state to do what’s right for Savannah to be able to address that need,” Johnson said at the press briefing.

A draft of the ordinance is “currently being written,” Savannah Press Secretary Josh Peacock wrote in an email. After it is written and put through a legal review, said Peacock, the ordinance will be added to the City Council agenda for a first reading.

Drew Favakeh is the public safety reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah ordinance would penalize owners who leave guns in unlocked cars

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected]

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