The bills allow for the seizure of firearms from those who pose a threat to themselves or others, strengthen hate crime penalties, prohibit firearms from city recreation facilities, and a resolution authorizing council to hold hearings on legislative remedies for removing firearms from abusers in domestic violence cases.
Council President Darrell Clarke said the incidence of gun violence in the city is extremely troubling to members of City Council and the community at large.
“It is at a point now where those of us who have responsibility for coming up with solutions, in all honesty, we just kind of shake our head and say, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Clarke said.
Clarke said he was glad the hearing was discussing real solutions to gun violence.
“There are all kinds of different issues, all types of different categories of crime, but there always on underlying issue,” Clarke said. “The availability of weapons.”
The usually measured council president seemed agitated at times during his introduction, particularly when discussing possible pushback from the state government in response to council’s proposed reforms.
“For whatever reason, they don’t think that we should determine our own destiny and I just clearly don’t understand that,” Clarke said. “We’re simply talking about creating a safe environment for our people. But we want to do what we have to do.”
Regarding potential opposition to the safe-haven law which would ban guns in recreation centers and playgrounds, Clarke said throughout the city, various other buildings such as the Criminal Justice Center and many private buildings, do not allow guns on the premises to ensure the safety of those within.
“So this notion that this is a Constitutional right of individuals to have weapons, you know, I just don’t want to hear it,” Clarke said. “People need to be safe in rec centers.”
Inspector Fran Healy of the Philadelphia Police Department testified that gun violence protection orders, which would temporarily restrict an individual’s ability to possess firearms when they’ve been deemed a threat, is a common sense measure.
“With the proper due process safeguards, these measures could help avoid mass shootings and equally important the number of suicides by firearms,” Healy said.
Community leader Bilal Qayyum testified that there have been 13,208 robberies with guns in the city since 2014 and 11,143 aggravated assaults with guns, totaling 24,351 incidents.
“From 2007 to 2018, there were 3,706 homicides in the city of Philadelphia,” Qayyum said. “[In] 80% of those homicides, the weapon of choice is guns.”
The four bills will be heard at the next stated meeting of council.
Lawrence McGlynn is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication where he earned a Master’s in Journalism. For the next several months he will be reporting out of City Hall on various council and committee meetings, the city’s budget, and how these impact the daily lives of Philadelphians.
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