People are getting killed in Philadelphia. This isn’t news. What isn’t so obvious is that the nearly 300 victims of violence
this year, most of them shot to death, died because of an ideology.
City government can’t make its own gun control laws. Due to the wording in Pennsylvania’s state constitution, as well as rulings handed down by the state Supreme Court, the city can’t create its own policies concerning gun restrictions, but rather has to abide by laws set forth by state legislature.
This means that Philadelphia neighborhoods are at the mercy of state representatives from rural parts of Pennsylvania, who are catering to rural voters. This does not bode well for crime-stricken parts of Philadelphia, since rural legislators rarely break from the gun-rights ranks. This dogged adherence to the party line is not as necessary as our representatives might believe.
“Legislators are worried that the pro-gun lobby will get them voted out of office,” said Diane Edbril, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun-violence awareness and lobbying group.
“They are not hearing from rank-and-file Pennsylvanians.”
A study done on the views Pennsylvanians held toward assault-weapon bans supports Edbril. The study, commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, found that Pennsylvania voters do not oppose firearm-restricting legislation as thoroughly as some might assume. Nearly 80 percent of likely voters favored renewing a federal assault-weapon ban, compared to 16 percent who were opposed.
More than 70 percent of likely voters favored strengthening the ban on gun manufacturers producing commercial versions of military style weapons. Only 17 percent opposed it. Are children dying in Philadelphia because our state legislators are bound to the gun lobby? Philadelphia is bleeding. David Kairys, a Temple Law professor and a frequent contributor
to the legal fight to restrict gun proliferation, said he believes the story is more complicated than legislative
“People have a deep-seated sense of guns as freedom or patriotism,” he said. “This makes the public prone to opposing the very idea of gun restrictions, even though, as the CFA study shows, they are in favor of specific proposals when those proposals are presented to them.”
Kairys does believe that better legislation can happen without impeding on people’s rights.
“We register cats and dogs and marriages and cars,” he said, “[Gun registration] could be done.” Lawmakers need to listen to voices like Kairys’ if any progress is to be made against violence. Easy access
to handguns is one of two major issues that Edbril said must be dealt with to fight Philadelphia’s escalating violence, the other being accessibility to employment.
The first change must be dealt with by the lawmakers of Pennsylvania. Cities are hog-tied when it comes to this sort of prevention, so the impetus falls upon state legislators. When a generation is being murdered, there is no excuse for politicians to pander to an out-of-touch ideology and its accompanying lobbyists.
Effective legislation must be passed. The second change, a lack of job opportunities, will have to be dealt with by the city of Philadelphia. Fortunately, a candidate has already shown leadership here. Michael Nutter, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Philadelphia, pledged to give a tax credit to employers who give jobs to people who have been through the prison system.
These tax credits, if made real by Nutter, could break the vicious cycle of hopelessness, and begin the process
of uplifting the thousands who currently have no prospects in mainstream society. And that, along with a concerted effort by the state to help reduce the proliferation of firearms in the city, could end Philadelphia’s bleeding at the hands of a runaway ideology.
Stephen Zook can be reached at Stephen.email@example.com.