Philly Shootout Exposes Real Flaws In Gun Control Argument

The hours-long shootout and standoff that erupted when a Philadelphia man opened fire on police officers as they attempted to serve a warrant made for an irresistible story for cable news networks to cover live on Wednesday evening. As the situation unfolded, viewers learned that non only had the suspect shot and wounded six police officers, but two others remained trapped inside the row home, pinned down alongside three individuals they had arrested before the firefight began.


The officers and their prisoners remained trapped inside the house until close to 10 p.m., when they escaped unharmed, with the help of the SWAT Unit. The standoff continued until midnight, when police fired tear gas into the property. [The suspect] Maurice Hill staggered outside with his hands in the air, as cops hollered at him to get down on the ground. He was quickly loaded into a waiting police van.

About 8 p.m., [Police Commissioner Richard] Ross spoke to reporters at Temple University Hospital, where some of the wounded cops had been admitted for treatment. None of the six had life-threatening injuries, he said, although a bullet grazed one officer’s head, and others had been shot in legs and arms. The officers’ names were not released, and all were later released from the hospital.

“Fortunately, everybody’s going to be OK,” Ross said.

That’s the best news to come out of this whole story, frankly. Unfortunately, there’s still plenty of bad news to go around, including the fact some in the crowd that gathered around the row home ended up taunting police even as they were trying to bring the situation to an end.

Meanwhile, on cable news networks, anchors and guests rushed to try to include the unfolding situation in their push for new gun control laws. For instance, Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, Florida, speculated that the shootings must prove that Congress needs to pass a law banning “high capacity magazines”.

As of this writing, we don’t know what size magazines the suspect had, but we do know that it was against the law for him to possess any firearms or ammunition at all, given his lengthy criminal history.

Hill’s history in the adult criminal justice system began in 2001 when he was 18 and was arrested with a gun that had an altered serial number.

Public records show that he has been arrested about a dozen times since turning 18, and convicted six times on charges that involved illegal possession of guns, drug dealing, and aggravated assault. He has been in and out of prison; the longest sentence handed him came in 2010, when a federal judge gave him a 55-month term.

Hill also spent time in federal prison. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to federal firearms violations after he was caught with a Smith & Wesson .357 and later a Taurus PT .45 semiautomatic. His prior felony convictions should have barred him from owning those weapons. U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond sentenced him to four years and seven months in prison.

More recently, Hill was convicted of perjury in 2013 and sentenced to seven years of probation. He appeared before Common Pleas Court Judge Rayford Means for three different alleged violations of probation — at least two of them related to new cases, which he later beat.

Six convictions, and arrests for violent crimes such as kidnapping and attempted murder (it will be interesting to learn what happened that allowed him to beat the rap in those cases). None of that mattered to the anti-gun politicians trying to use the shootout to push for gun control, or in at least one case, to try to fundraise off of the shootout while it was still taking place.

Not one of these politicians or pundits dared to address the central flaw in their argument: The drug laws in this country didn’t prevent a violent criminal like Maurice Hill from allegedly possessing and dealing drugs, so how would their gun control laws work any better at preventing someone like Hill from possessing and illegally using a firearm?

“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry, all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

Mayor Kenney was right to avoid getting into a discussion about gun control while Hill was still holed up in the row home, but when he does “get to that” conversation, I suspect that the fact that Hill was no stranger to the court system and was allegedly involved in illegal drug sales will be ignored in favor of pushing laws that are aimed at legal gun owners.

Sadly, many politicians don’t want to talk about the failures of the criminal justice system, they just want to throw a few gun control laws into the flawed system so they can say they “did something”. Others, like Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, have adopted a “rehabilitative” strategy that’s putting criminals back on the streets instead of behind bars.

As the Inquirer reported on June 23rd, Krasner is funneling an increased number of gun cases to a court diversionary program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). In 2018, Krasner’s first year as district attorney, 78 cases were sent to the ARD program, compared with 12 the previous year.

Why does this matter? Because criminals who carry guns usually intend to use them.

Maalik Jackson-Wallace, for example, was given a second chance by Krasner’s office. Jackson-Wallace, whose case was highlighted by the Inquirer, was initially arrested on a gun possession charge. The case was sent to ARD and Jackson-Wallace received probation. He was arrested a second time for gun possession and released on unsecured bail. On June 13th, he was arrested again and charged with murder; police say he shot and killed a 26-year-old man. (Jackson-Wallace’s attorney claims it was in self-defense.)

When Krasner was practicing law in Philadelphia – specializing in criminal defense and civil rights cases – he sued the police department some 75 times. He doesn’t believe in the death penalty, and he’s called law enforcement “systemically racist.”

Since taking office, he’s ordered his assistant district attorneys to request cash bail less often and include a cost analysis of incarceration when making sentencing recommendations.

Krasner talks a lot about “social justice” and “inequality.” But you won’t hear him mention victims very often. And why? Because Krasner views crime victims as an obstacle to his agenda.

Banning guns or “high capacity magazines” won’t remove them from society any more than banning drugs has made this country drug-free. Ultimately, these laws amount to a charge police might be able to use to make an arrest, and a prosecutor a conviction, but only after a crime’s been committed. Clearly we have more than enough laws to get tough on guys like Maurice Hill. It’s time politicians “did something” about the fact that violent offenders are regularly and repeatedly getting sweetheart deals and lighter sentences than they deserve. You want to stop a guy like Maurice Hill from getting a “high capacity magazine”? Then stop giving guys like Maurice Hill gentle slaps on the wrist when they show up in court on violent criminal charges.



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