Mayor Street joins a group of 50 mayors in Washington today pushing for new strategies to stanch the flow of illegal guns into American cities.
With Pennsylvania hamstrung "with some of the most lax gun laws in all of the country," Street said, the mayors are pushing for "tougher laws to control illegal guns . . . . This is a national movement to deal with the proliferation of guns."
The coalition, known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, formed last April in New York. In September, the coalition joined Street for a lobbying push in Harrisburg.
With President Bush to offer his State of the Union address tonight to a Congress now controlled by Democrats, Street said that he's hoping for a better gun-control environment.
Philadelphia suffered 406 homicides last year, more than 80 percent of them by guns.
Topping Street's agenda is state legislation that would limit handgun sales to one a month. At the federal level, the mayoral group has been working against legislation that would weaken cities' rights to have access to data that trace gun purchases.
The coalition is also pushing for harsh punishment for those who traffic in illegal guns, including gun dealers "who break the law by knowingly selling guns to straw purchasers."
That issue turned up as a key focus for a gun-control group pushing for more resources for federal gun inspectors.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence yesterday released a report at City Hall focused on federally licensed gun dealers whose sales to "gunrunners" resulted in criminal uses. Among the two dozen gun dealers highlighted in the report, nine were from Pennsylvania, two in Philadelphia.
The report detailed straw purchases at Delia's Gun Shop, on Torresdale Avenue near Devereaux Avenue in Wissinoming; and C&C Sports Center, on Geiger Road near Gantry in the Northeast, between 2000 and 2005 that resulted in federal weapons prosecutions involving the buyers.
"Federal crime data show that large numbers of crime guns move quickly from licensed gun dealers into the hands of criminals," the report said. "Indeed, about 1 percent of the nation's gun dealers account for almost 60 percent of guns recovered in crime. All indicators confirm the complicity of these dealers in channeling guns to criminals."
Too often, the report asserted, gun dealers are selling large quantities of guns to gunrunners but face no legal consequences.
"Dealers who sell guns to straw or multiple or prohibited purchasers aren't being arrested, prosecuted or disciplined at all," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center. "That's one reason why Philadelphia and other cities are seeing a rise in violent crime."
Helmke said that the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has long known the role of corrupt dealers in the trafficking of handguns. But ATF is prohibited from making more than one unannounced inspection of a gun dealer in a 12-month period.
"Obviously, once they've made that visit, the dealer knows they have 12 months pretty much to sell the guns under the table and not follow the rules," Helmke said.
Under the 1986 Firearm Owners' Protection Act, ATF faces a high legal standard to show that a dealer is engaged in illegal conduct. The law also classifies record-keeping violations as misdemeanors and not as felonies as the law provided before 1986.
John Hageman, an ATF spokesman in Philadelphia, said that ATF has pursued investigations with the help of gun dealers who alert the agency to straw purchasers.
Meanwhile, on another crime-fighting issue, Street met with Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson to discuss the increased use of police-operated surveillance cameras. With 18 cameras up and running in the city, Street said, "We want more, but how you do it strategically requires some police decisions, and there's also money involved."