CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON BILL BANNING GUNS FROM CITY RECREATION CENTERS, PLAYGROUNDS

In Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, William K. Greenleeby PHL Council

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Council Hears Testimony on Other Gun Violence Prevention Measures, Including “Red Flag” Bill to Remove Guns from Dangerous Persons

Philadelphia, October 30, 2019 – City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing today on “Safe Havens” legislation (Bill No.190749) introduced by Council President Darrell Clarke. The legislation prohibits guns and other deadly weapons from Philadelphia recreation centers and playgrounds.

Following a series of shootings at such facilities over the summer — including shootings at Finnegan and Baker playgrounds that wounded six and seven residents, respectively — Council President Clarke announced a renewed effort to prohibit guns and other deadly weapons at playgrounds and recreation centers to protect children and families from gunfire.

The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District). Companion legislation (HB No. 1764) has been introduced in the General Assembly. Rep. Donna Bullock (195th District) is the primary sponsor. Sen. Vincent Hughes (7th District) is leading similar efforts in the Senate.

As today’s committee hearing got underway on the Safe Havens legislation and other bills designed to prevent gun violence, Council President Clarke, who generally does not attend hearings as Council’s presiding officer, offered opening remarks.

Clarke noted criminal justice reform initiatives that Council has supported to create “a more equitable system of justice in our city to give people second and third chances to be productive citizens in Philadelphia.”

Then Clarke, alluding to recent shootings of an 11-month-old infant and a 2-year-old toddler in North Philadelphia, spoke of a “different conversation happening in our streets now.”

“Citizens are saying, ‘You guys have to do something about gun violence. Get the guns off our streets,” Clarke said. “Another issue — some people do not need to be on our streets. Some people go out, shoot a crowd of people at a rec center, or a young child in a household, whatever is on their mind. We need to deal with this issue of law enforcement. We must create a safer environment in our neighborhoods and give people the quality of life they deserve.”

Kathryn Ott Lovell, Parks and Recreation Commissioner, testified in support of the Safe Havens legislation. Commissioner Lovell spoke of the array of programs offered by Parks and Rec center staff to 100,000 participants. She noted the department employs over 1,100 teenagers in summer jobs. But then Lovell noted there have been 14 documented assaults on parks and rec staff in 2019, including gunpoint robberies, assaults and the shootouts referenced above. Lovell urged Council to support the Safe Havens law to protect children and city workers.

Bilal Qayyum, a respected anti-violence advocate from North Philadelphia, testified and offered disturbing statistics on gun violence in Philadelphia, including this one: In the past five years, the city has experienced 24,351 aggravated assaults and gunpoint robberies.

The Safe Havens bill was reported favorably from committee to the full Council, where it is expected to be taken up over the next several weeks.

The Public Safety committee also heard testimony on Bill No.180553, legislation from committee chair Curtis Jones, Jr. that would make it easier for citizens to flag dangerous individuals to a court for an order removing their firearms. Councilmember Jones had a video shown about various incidents nationwide in which citizens tried to flag threats by various individuals to law enforcement before shootings occurred. This bill was reported favorably from the committee to Council as well.

The committee heard testimony and reported favorably to Council Bill No.180969, which would amend the “Hate Crimes” city code to increase the scope of eligible crimes to provide for additional criminal penalties motivated by hatred towards certain characteristics of other persons.

Lastly, the panel took testimony on Resolution No. 190260, to understand what various city agencies are doing in coordination to implement a state law approved last year to better protect domestic violence victims by ordering abusers to turn over their firearms more expeditiously to law enforcement.

Testimony from the Council President and Commissioner Ott Lovell is included below.

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