Council President Darrell Clarke at a council session


In Allan Domb, Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Kenyatta Johnson, News by admin

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 23, 2020 – As gun violence continues to rage unabated in Philadelphia, Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) today called for Council to authorize the hiring of legal counsel to file a lawsuit compelling the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enact stronger gun laws, or allow municipalities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or others to pass their own gun laws.

Last night, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed inside his Cobbs Creek home. It marked Philadelphia’s 32nd homicide already in 2020 – a 22-day-span. This represents an 82 percent increase in homicides in the city in the first three weeks of the year, compared with the same period last year. More than 100 youths under the age of 18 were shot last year – 14 fatally.

“People in Philadelphia are tired and frustrated with gun violence happening every day in their neighborhoods,” Clarke said. “32 homicides in 22 days! Toddlers shot in their homes, a shoot-out at a Target store parking lot – we must take action and we need every responsible elected official on deck.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

A Resolution authorizing Council to retain legal counsel to file a lawsuit against the Commonwealth was co-introduced this morning by Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Curtis Jones Jr., on Council President Clarke’s behalf. Numerous other Councilmembers signed on as co-sponsors, including Majority Leader Cherelle Parker, Councilmembers Derek Green, and Allan Domb.

The resolution details the “ferocity and sheer volume of gun violence in Philadelphia” over the past several weeks – the impetus for the legislative action.

“WHEREAS, The ferocity and sheer volume of gun violence in Philadelphia shocks the conscience of all law-abiding citizens: Three men were shot to death in the first fifteen hours of 2020. On January 15, 2020, five people were shot in less than 30 minutes. On January 21, a triple shooting in a Target parking lot left one man dead. As of January 21, 2020, there have been 31 homicides in 2020, up a shocking 82% from January 2019, according to the Philadelphia Police Department’s webpage, Last year, 14 children under 18 were shot fatally with guns. The homicide rate in Philadelphia has risen steadily, from 277 in 2016, to 315 in 2017, to 353 in 2018, to 356 in 2019.”

The resolution goes on to note that gun violence is a statewide problem – not a city-only problem.

“WHEREAS, Gun violence is not confined to one city or state, but rather plagues communities across the country. Today, the public still mourns the tragic loss of life from the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and decries the General Assembly’s refusal to permit Pittsburgh’s City Council to use commonsense measures to combat the spread of rampant gun violence. Across the Commonwealth, gun violence claims the lives of more than 1,500 residents each year, according to the Giffords Law Center, which means that someone is killed with a gun every six hours in Pennsylvania.”

The resolution notes the failure of the PA General Assembly to take action to reduce and prevent gun violence across the Commonwealth – due to the strong influence of the gun lobby. The most recent example: after Council passed an ordinance last session prohibiting the possession of guns at city recreation facilities – the scene of several shootings last summer – the legislature took no action to approve legislation allowing Philadelphia to enforce that ordinance.

The Resolution concludes:

“RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, That it hereby authorizes Council to retain counsel to file a lawsuit compelling the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fulfill its obligation to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania by enacting, or authorizing municipalities to enact, legislation that addresses the public health crisis of gun violence.”

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Darrell L. Clarke represents the 5th Council District and serves as President of Philadelphia City Council, the 17-member legislative body of Philadelphia City government. A lifelong resident of North Philadelphia and an equitable housing and public education advocate, Council President Clarke works to ensure that every neighborhood in Philadelphia is a community of choice. 

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