By Larry Keane
Philly, we’ve got a problem.
The city that’s got a mayor waging a gun control campaign against law-abiding gun owners can’t account for more than 200 of their own guns. Philadelphia’s Sheriff’s Office was blamed in a report for failing to account for 210 taxpayer-funded service firearms and firearms that were seized. They went missing between 1977-2015, but only came to light in 2019 when a confidential complaint tipped off authorities that “15 long guns” were missing.
That began an investigation that showed the city’s missing guns issue was 173 percent bigger than what was first believed. The people tasked with enforcing laws, including court security and prisoner transfers, couldn’t follow their own regulations and keep track of their guns.
Philadelphia’s gun control cabal, including Democrat Mayor Jim Kenney, is sure to miss the irony here. For clarity’s sake, this is the situation detailed clearly. The same people who want to use law enforcement to curb the gun rights of law-abiding citizens and track and confiscate guns can’t even keep track and control of the ones for which they’re responsible. Officials are saying there’s nothing to see here, move along. It was a problem with the old regime.
A year-long investigation by the City Controller’s office blames “physical disorganization,” and “poor record keeping” by the sheriff’s office. That might have been obvious when investigators saw firearms in piles on the floor and haphazardly stored. Firearms belonging to the sheriff’s office and those that were seized were comingled and some were still loaded when stored.
Seventy-one firearms recovered in the investigation are “unknown,” meaning there’s no originating paperwork. Investigators can’t determine of the firearms were duty firearms purchased by taxpayers or if they were seized, and if they were seized, from whom they were taken. Sixty-seven firearms that were seized were never documented by serial numbers, making origin determination impossible.
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The Controller’s investigation believes that at least 25 of the 101 taxpayer-purchased sheriff’s firearms just weren’t returned by deputies when they left the force. Another word for that is theft. It’s worse, though. The City Controller’s investigation found evidence of trading at gun shops with city sheriff’s office guns. At least 13 seized firearms and one service firearm were traded for 10 new firearms through a local firearm retailer. The retailer provided investigators receipts and records of the transactions and there’s no allegations or evidence of wrongdoing by the firearm retailer, but serious questions remain for sheriff’s authorities for illegal transactions.
That doesn’t wash. The ones who were supposed to be minding those who were minding the armory had no idea what was going on. It might have been because Mayor Kenney has been too busy on a campaign to shave off Second Amendment rights in his city. He pushed to illegally enact his own gun control legislation even after Pittsburgh had been rebuked by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court for a similar attempt in 1993 and was again rejected in 2019 by an Alleghany County judge.
Mayor Kenney invoked gun control to protect police after an hours-long shootout with a criminal occurred in 2019 when officers attempted to serve a warrant. He said stricter gun control was needed after several officers were shot and injured. But Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said the mayor was grandstanding on his own failure to enforce laws. The suspect was previously arrested nearly a dozen times, for charges and convictions that involved illegal possession of guns, drug dealing and aggravated assault. He was sentenced by a federal judge to 55 months in one instance. He was previously convicted for illegal possession of firearms.
The suspect that shot officers was a convicted violent criminal, who was barred from possessing a firearm. That didn’t stop Mayor Kenney from capitalizing on the shocking event to push his gun control agenda.
“There are plenty of laws. It’s not a lack of gun laws,” Johnson explained in a National Review interview about the suspect, Maurice Hill. “Hill is not in the business of obeying laws.”
The mayor of the City of Brotherly Love can’t honestly look his fellow citizens in the eye and answer that he’s properly accounting for the guns for which he’s responsible. Mayor Kenney is less interested in doing his job to be responsible for the city’s firearms and more interested in pushing his own gun control agenda.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.