Friday, October 05, 2007
Philly gunning for more control
With more than 300 murders so far this year, Philadelphia has been struggling to contain gun violence.
If I was a Philadelphia resident, I could walk into any gun shop in the city and buy 50, 100, even 1,000 guns, just like that. All they would do is run an instant background check, and assuming my record was clean, I'd walk out with all that firepower.

There's no waiting period, no rules on who I can and can't sell those weapons to. In fact, state law says I don't even have to get a license for the guns or register them.

Could this be contributing to the gun violence in Philadelphia? So far this year, there have been more than 300 murders, and more than 85 percent of them were the result of a firearm, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

Ray Jones, a community volunteer with the group Men United, blames state lawmakers for not passing tougher gun laws and for keeping cities like Philadelphia from passing their own regulations.

"It's about survival," Jones said. "People are dying in the streets and we need to get help."

The fight over gun laws has turned into a power struggle between the state government and Philadelphia.

Back in 1994, the state legislature overturned an assault weapons ban, making AK-47s as easy to get as hunting rifles. The next year, rules were eased on concealed weapons. Today it's actually against the law in Pennsylvania for a policeman to ask anyone why they want to carry a concealed weapon.

At last check, there are now 29,000 permits to carry concealed weapons in Philadelphia, compared to about 800 applications for permits back in 1995. One law enforcement source told me the state is handing out permits to carry like "candy."

State Senator Vincent Fumo is a gun owner, and he supports the current laws. "People want to think that this is the wild west, and we don't have any laws. What we don't have is enforcement of those laws," he told CNN.

Many here in the city argue that if Philadelphia had "home rule", as it's called, and the city was allowed to pass more stringent gun laws, people would be safer.

"It really would be appropriate for the city to determine its own sort of destiny," Jones told CNN. "Now our hands are sort of handcuffed."

Who do you think has the right to set the ground rules when it comes to guns? The state or the city?

-- Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 11:15 AM ET
  28 Comments
I think tougher gun laws and more police would be a good start. But really if you want a gun legal or not you can easily get them any where in the U.S. So just passing gun laws by itself isn't going to ease their problems!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 12:33 PM ET
The city should have the right to govern their guns laws. It has become like the old west all over again - some towns are worse than others. Protection from criminals is provided by local law officals - not from someone in the capital of that state, who isn't even there day and night on the streets -like our police officers. Support your local sheriff.
Posted By Maldonado : 1:47 PM ET
Randi, I would say both the city and state have the right to set ground rules, but that of course means they have to agree on this issue. Unfortunately, that's pie in the sky right now.

I urge that we think outside the box and look at other cities or countries that have a low murder or gun-related crime rate. What kind of gun control laws do they have? What can we learn from them?

Thanks,

Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 1:53 PM ET
Franky, it seems to me that the Pennsylvania law itself is a big part of the problem, not just the fact that Philadelphia can't create tougher laws for itself as needed.

While state laws are important and provide cities a place to start, the individual locales should always be able to make additional laws as warranted by their particular needs. With cities as diverse as they are, what works for one won't necessarily work in another.

I think the lawmakers in PA need to take a close at the real problem here, the 300 souls that have been lost while they play semantics. I sincerely hope the people in Philadelphia can make the difference their powers that be seem incapable of.
Posted By Jennifer, Washington DC : 2:16 PM ET
Thank You 360 for featuring Philadelphia and the horrible crime that is happening there. It makes me very sad. I was born there and grew up just outside of Philly. I have since moved away but still keep in touch with family up there.

This is an example of the Black on Black crime that people don't want to address. Where is Jesse Jackson? Where is Al Sharpton? The problems begin in the home and in the community. The people in gangs do not have the guidance they desparately need. The media as a whole needs to put a spotlight on Philly and quit chasing a few isolated nooses. The real horrors are happening within the black community itself. The White Man has nothing to do with it. Please stop this insanity and make Philly the nice place that it should be.
Posted By Anonymous : 2:20 PM ET
I'm a Japanese and in my country, possessing a gun is prohibited.

I fail to comprehend why people are still turning to guns even after seeing many gun-related murders, shooting rampages, school shooting and so on.

It's like a nation who is eager to possess nuclear weapon just because other countries possess one. They might need one to protect themselves. However once used, there would be a catastrophe. To achieve world peace, nuclear disarmament is essential.

I fully understand that once you possess, it's difficult to abandon. But to have a peaceful society, there should be no place for guns.

Mio, Oita, Japan
Posted By Mio : 2:21 PM ET
I don't think we need to micro-manage it to the point of each city having different gun laws; the states should do it. But a waiting period is crucial. Think about crimes of desperation.
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 2:46 PM ET
I believe states should have jurisdiction. I also think that more harsh sentencing must be applied to anyone who commits a crime with a gun. Background checks on anyone buying guns should be highly extensive and easy to fail. Large accumulations of guns (eg: Waco) should not be legal.
Posted By Ted G. - Denver, Co. : 2:53 PM ET
I don't think it's a question of state or city ruling on guns. My answer to gun violence would be life in prison for any crime committed with a gun.
Posted By Mike M., Omaha, NE : 2:59 PM ET
Wow, where to begin.

First, the vast majority of firearm crime is not committed by legal firearm owners. Gangland criminals and street thugs use illegal firearms, just like the same criminals sell illegal drugs that are fully prohibited in every state. As it has been found in Britain, if you outlaw all guns the criminals smuggle them in just as easily as they smuggle in illegal drugs.

The type of increased regulation you seem to be suggesting here only impacts those of us who obey the laws. And, a recent study by the CDC, no friend in general of firearm owners, recently found that gun laws have no quantifiable impact on firearm violence. One more time, criminals do not obey the law.
First, while it is hard to pin down a single national study on the issue, common figures from individual studies conducted in areas like Philadelphia and Chicago show that upwards of 70 percent of murders are committed by individuals with existing criminal records with a similar figure for their victims. Basically, criminal on criminal violence. In most cases the criminal did not buy a firearm through legal channels. That pesky background check you so easily dismiss prevents that.

2nd, just how many concealed carry holders are involved in an illegal use of their the firearm? as the CATO Institute notes: "We now have at least 10 years of actual evidence from 25 different states with diverse rural and metropolitan populations, including the cities of Miami, Houston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle, and Portland, regarding perhaps as many as 1 million permit holders carrying their weapons for hundreds of millions of man-hours. The results are in, and they show unequivocally that (a) the number of persons currently in possession of permits to carry firearms ranges from 1 to 5 percent of the state's population; (b) criminals do not apply for permits; (c) permit holders do not take to settling their traffic disputes or arguments with guns, or "take the law into their own hands"; (d) shall-issue licensing states have almost no problems with violent criminality or inappropriate brandishing of firearms by permit holders; and (e) some permit holders have used their guns to defend themselves and others. There appears to be no reported case of any permit holder adjudged to have wrongfully killed another in connection with carrying and using his weapon in public. As of this writing, shall-issue licensing laws are creating no reported law enforcement problem in any of the 25 states that have enacted them. Dodge City has not returned; the blood is not running in the streets."

Finally, as to the Evil Assault Weapons, according to the FBI any type of rifle is used in roughly 1-2 percent of firearm homicides. As scary as they are in TV crime dramas, the use of a semi automatic rifle (much less an automatic Assault rifle which is HIGHLY regulated) is a non issue in reality.

Occasionally, like in Miami, such a weapon are used by criminal. But in a country of over 300 million people it's just not common at all. They tend to bee too expensive and too hard to conceal for criminals.

Also, when you mention: "making AK-47s as easy to get as hunting rifles." well, the second amendment has far more to do with an AK 47 than it will ever have to do with the "hunting use" smokescreen. Hunting is not referenced in the Bill of Rights or the Federalist Papers, etc. Hunting use is simply along for the ride. And again, such weapons are used in homicide about as often as a baseball bat.

Philadelphia has a people problem not a gun problem. People problems are tough on politicians, so its easy to blame the gun people use. I would suggest that addressing issues like inner-city poverty, a culture where people don't snitch and out of control criminal gangs will do a lot more to address the city's problems than dealing with the legal gun owner non problem. The real issues are a lot harder though.
Posted By Keith : 3:03 PM ET
Well, being against guns in general, I can't really address the specific question other than to say I think the only people who should possess a gun for any reason are law enforcement, ranchers and farmers for protection of their livelihood from predatory animals; also licensed hunters, who should be allowed to possess only certain types of weapons. Anyone else in possession of a gun for any reason should be locked up for a minimum of six months for the offense and lose their driver’s license for a year. That’d be a good place to start.
Posted By a.j. blanco, coral gables, fl. : 3:04 PM ET
Since gun control laws are not being enforced fully, I don't think we should pass any new gun regulations until we start enforcing the existing laws.
Posted By Scott S., Des Moines, Ia. : 3:09 PM ET
Im all for the Second Amendment, but it's unacceptable that you can buy a gun for $20 on the streets of Philadelphia. I think it would be too complicated for each city to have their own laws; I'd say the states should control guns.
Posted By Terry , Hartford, Ct : 3:19 PM ET
I don't care who makes the laws about gun violence but we'd better do something fast. Seems that the way it is now, law abiding citizens are prevented from carrying, while people on the edge seem to get their hands on guns. One law abiding citizen with a legal carry permit could save alot of lives when we have school and street shootings.
Posted By julie oswalt, houston, tx. : 3:24 PM ET
There needs to be stricter consequences; I don't think it matters whether the state or indiv. cities make the laws.
Posted By Ronnie, Knoxville, Tn. : 3:29 PM ET
Rather than try to respond point by point to everything in the article, I will restrict myself to answering Randi's question at the end: "Who has the right to set the ground rules when it comes to guns? The state or the city?"

If you are talking about the basic right of individual citizens to own and carry arms, the answer is that neither the state nor the city have standing to infringe on a right recognized in the Constitution.

However, if you are talking about which lower governmental entity can enact parameters within which citizens must exercise that fundamental right, my answer is that it must be the state instead of the city.

The simple reality is that a city is too small a jurisdiction to make meaningful laws in such things. The cases of New York and Chicago make the point. They have gun laws so strict as to be draconian, yet they still have two problems: criminals who use guns they get illegally on the streets and poorer citizens who cannot defend themselves because they can't move to the suburbs where gun laws are more rational.

Since gun laws NEVER stop criminals from acquiring and using firearms, all you would accomplish by giving cities the right to set more restrictive laws would be go guarantee that poor people would be the victims of crime more often than they already are.
Posted By Rich Pedersen, Spring, TX : 3:30 PM ET
The sentencing for gun violence has to be more uniform and much stricter.

It's interesting that Washington DC has a complete gun ban, and it has the highest gun crime rate in the country (by a wide margin).
Posted By William Genero, Herndon, Va. : 3:32 PM ET
I think the city should be able to control anything within its borders, and take advisement from the State. I don't see anything wrong with Philiadelphia putting restrictions on guns.
Posted By Anonymous : 3:37 PM ET
Why don't you just declare that owning a gun is a mental illness and let the cops who certainly don't use excessive force take care of them? Huh? Why not? Problem solved. Next question.
Posted By Anonymous : 3:47 PM ET
I agree with Keith. I have never committed a crime, yet own most of the "evil guns" that CRIMINALS use in committing their crimes.

I don't hunt, I just like to collect firearms. Crime is caused by criminals, but it is just too easy for politicians to blame inanimate objects like guns than actually do something about the criminals.
Posted By Anonymous : 3:55 PM ET
Maybe it would be better to have uniform state laws for matters of consistency. It's tragic and unfair for the victims, their families and communities to have to live in a place rife with urban warfare. Consider also, the revenue the city gains from the early American history market. That might change. Why not do something now to prevent it from becoming Killadelphia?
Posted By Carol B., Frederick, MD : 4:02 PM ET
I agree with Keith in that there is a "people" problem, not just a gun problem going on here and in order to effectively put an end to the violence in Philadelphia and other similar cities, both the people and gun problem have to be addressed.

To answer Randi's question, the state should make the laws. It's too complicated for individual cities to make their own laws, which may end up being ineffective anyway. I don't understand why the lawmakers of Pennsylvania seem to have turned a blind eye to the problem in Philadelphia. So much for the City of Brotherly Love I guess.
Posted By Amanda, NC : 4:13 PM ET
I have a Pennsylvania carry permit, in addition to my Virginia one. I got it in 2000, when my employers elected to have their convention in Philadelphia.

Virginia is also a Dillon-Rule state, with preemption. Some of our cities and counties whine about not being able to enact only-on-Tuesday rules, just like Philly does. I, for one, am glad that I can't be arrested for doing something perfectly legal statewide, just because I happened to wander into the city limits of some town with a hoplophobic city council.

Licensing and registration do nothing about gun crime, and serve only as ways to harass the law-abiding gun owner. Furthermore, registration has a downside -- in all cases where governments decided to ban and confiscate firearms of one type or another, they enacted registration first.
Posted By Dex : 5:12 PM ET
Quite a piece of mis-information. I will not counter each and every inaccuracy in your story, for others posters here have already done an excellent job. I would have you look at major metropolitan cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Los Angles, etc., and you will see some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country today. Yet, these places also have the highest violent crime rates in the country. Municipal goverments have a terrible track record when trying to deal with the common problems of infrastructure, loss of businesses, decay (Philadelphia had such a severe problem of buildings collapsing that the mayor had to form a task force) and shrinking revenues. The thought of a local goverment restricting an individual's rights because of an ill-concieved idea on the part of politicans is down-right scary. Try to smoke, eat, or talk on a cell phone in any major city. And all in the name of "Public Safety".
The state gun laws of Pennsylvania cover the whole state, not just Philadelphia (something conveniently forgotten by urban residents). And the laws of each state should be left up to that state's governing body. I don't want California or New York or Maryland to tell me what I can and can't do in my state, nor do I want Philadelphia or Newark or Seattle to force their will on me.
Posted By Albert D., Hartford, CT : 5:14 PM ET
No, the city should not be allowed add another complex and draconian layer of regulation.

What they should do is a) enforce existing laws to curtail drug and gang-related criminal activity that brings violence with it, and b) follow other states' lead (e.g. Florida) to implement shall-issue, concealed-carry weapons permits to law abiding citizens who are willing to assume the responsibility of defending themselves in unavoidable situations until the police arrive.

The statement "no rules on who I can and can't sell those weapons to" is incompetent journalism, since federal law does in fact regulate to whom you can and cannot sell weapons.

Regarding Cooper's apparent (and unthinking) bias that waiting periods and registration are "good": if your record is clean, then what is the point of a waiting period, other than harrassment?

And what is registration good for, exactly, other than to primarily facilitate confiscation from law abiding citizens at a later date?

Gun violence is a symptom of things awry in Philadelphia's society, but to scapegoat guns as the root cause is both stupid and short sighted. A gun is a tool, and results depend upon the character of the man or woman who wields it. Philadelphia's problems are those of character, in both its criminals and its leaders.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:36 PM ET
We just had a five year old shoot himself in the head with a gun he found in the home. Rules and regulations don't do any good if they are not enforced. It seems that the state doesn't want to change anything so I'd try giving the city a chance. I liked the idea of studying other cities with low crime rates. That sounds like a great place to start.
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 5:39 PM ET
The wrong people will get the weapons, whether you take the access for others away or not.
Posted By Sama : 2:03 PM ET
Wyatt Earp had the solution. Take the guns away.

This is not a cure all but it will help. Once the guns are gone you can concentrate on the issues that cause this type of violence. First things first.
Posted By Uwe Warkholdt, Elliot Lake, Northern Ontario, Canada : 5:57 PM ET
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