The leaders of Philadelphia just joined the list of local officials looking to blame anyone but themselves for rising violent crime rates in their communities.
Mayor Jim Kenney and leaders in the city council announced today their intention to sue the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for “stoking the gun violence epidemic” in their city and elsewhere across Pennsylvania.
The city argues in its lawsuit that state preemption law “handcuffs local governments so that they cannot enact or enforce even simple, well-researched policies that have been repeatedly shown to save lives, while it also refuses to enact statewide gun safety laws.”
“By enacting and continuing to ratify the Firearm Preemption Laws, the General Assembly has increased gun violence in these municipalities, and they have affirmatively endangered the lives, health and safety of the Individual Petitioners,” the lawsuit states.
The suit asks the court to declare that the state government has violated Pennsylvanians’ right to life under the PA Constitution, and to vacate the Firearm Preemption Laws so that Philadelphia and other municipalities can implement whatever gun control laws they wish.
Their primary example is a law proposed last year by Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Councilmember Cindy Bass that would have prohibited guns and other weapons from playgrounds and recreation centers. The law passed the council in response to several murders at recreation centers in Philadelphia, and today’s press conference was held at Happy Hollow Recreation Center.
The law was stymied by the state government and never enforced. It’s unclear how banning firearms from recreation centers would keep criminals and gang members from bringing guns to those facilities.
The city press release names a number of additional “evidence-based and sensible gun regulations” it wants to pass to help quell the violence, including gun licensing schemes and one-gun-a month requirements.
Pennsylvania cities are barred from passing their own gun control regulations by state law 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6120:
No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
SEE ALSO: Protests Spark Up in Pennsylvania Following Officer-Involved Shooting of Knife-Wielding Suspect
Pennsylvania isn’t the first city to attempt to get around this law. Last year, Pittsburg tried to ban AR-type rifles by prohibiting their “use” rather than their “possession.” They also tried to ban magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition and all “armor-piercing” ammunition.
This suit from Philadelphia comes as the city struggles with rising rates of violent crime. More people have been murdered so far this year than all of last year, and the city is on track to see more homicides this year than any year in more than a decade.
Leaders in Philadelphia blame the state government for the rise.
“Respondents have allowed and continue to allow gun deaths and injuries to persist at appalling rates in vulnerable Black and Hispanic communities in our Commonwealth, and as a result, Petitioners have lost the lives of their children, family members, and residents,” the lawsuit states. “Respondents are deliberately tying the hands of local governments, and people in the most affected communities will continue to lose life and limb so long as the barriers created by the Firearm Preemption Laws remain in place.”
It should also be mentioned that back in March city leaders instructed law enforcement to scale back on arresting criminals to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Instead of incarcerating offenders, police were told to confirm their identity, cite them with a ticket, and then let them back out into the streets.
Clarification of PPD's temporary response model in light of Covid-19 pic.twitter.com/8eMiUb17qD— Danielle M. Outlaw (@PPDCommish) March 18, 2020
Per Fox29, crimes for which there was a cite-and-set-free approach included:
- All narcotics offenses
- Theft from persons
- Retail theft
- Theft from auto
- All bench warrants
- Stolen auto
- Economic crimes
It’s not clear how this change in policing affected crime rates, nor does it appear that city leaders have considered it as a proximate cause for the spike in violence.