Must heed message of antiviolence group

Heeding God's Call, a religious-based group that has for years been trying to reduce illegal gun sales in the city, needs more people to pay attention and get involved.


police shooting
Philadelphia Police and SWAT Unit officers shot a man on N. Broad St near the front of the Masonic Temple on Friday morning July 6, 2012. The man allegedly had a gun. This picture shows a revolver picked up from the gutter along Broad St. in front of the Masonic Temple. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Just last month, an 18-year-old shot himself in the head during a webcam chat. He reportedly thought the gun, apparently purchased illegally by his 22-year-old brother, was unloaded.

Heeding God's Call wants the public to be made aware of any retailers who knowingly sell guns illegally. That effort can be linked to a nationwide push to crack down on illegal gun trafficking.

In 2008, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Wal-Mart created the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership, which asks stores selling weapons to follow 10 steps, including background checks of every customer and accepting only valid IDs.

Such sound rules should be incorporated into gun laws. But National Rifle Association lobbyists have managed to prevent that in Pennsylvania. In May, the legislature was considering a mandatory five-year prison sentence for any felon carrying an illegal weapon. But the unsuccessful legislation was amended so much it eventually became pointless.

In recent years, 30 cities in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, have passed ordinances requiring gun owners to report stolen guns. But the statutes have been stymied by opposition from the NRA, which has undermined municipalities' attempts to curb gun trafficking by making the towns liable for the costs of legal challenges to these ordinances.

The NRA can't be allowed to prevail. Philadelphia so far this year has seen a 23 percent rise in homicides, 88 percent of which were committed with guns. The state also has become a top supplier of guns recovered in New York crimes. Tougher gun laws are needed to reduce the carnage.