Wednesday, March 26, 2008

City legislators meet on gun control

Searching for ways to reduce the tide of gun violence in Philadelphia, a panel of state lawmakers heard testimony today from an array of civic leaders at City Hall.
Led by State Reps. Babette Josephs and Dwight Evans, members of the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees held a forum that featured city, school and public-health officials.

City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller pointed to the need for legislation to ease the flow of guns into the city. She said Philadelphia needed to be able to draft its own guns laws, independently of state lawmakers in Harrisburg.

Miller said a law limiting handgun purchases to one a month would help reduce the number of guns in the city.

"I don't understand why someone needs 12 guns a year," Miller said.

"The state will not let us enact our own gun laws," she said. "We cannot legislate an attitude change, but this legislation is a start."

Citing the 116 homicides reported in Philadelphia this year, Miller said that gun violence had become all too routine.

"Philadelphia has become a place where everyday we expect to hear that someone has been murdered. . . . We really need to get a handle on gun laws."

Walter M. Phillips Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, also urged lawmakers to pass measures restricting the sale of guns.

He later asked the panel, which included State Reps. Tony Payton Jr. (D., Phila.); Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks); and James R. Roebuck Jr. (D., Phila.), "Are not 12 guns a year enough?"

John Mirowitz, Southeast Regional director of Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, said that allowing purchases of only one gun a month did not work, citing other states that had such laws.

"When you start talking about [one gun a month], you don't understand the sportsmen's community."