I can’t imagine that there are too many unwanted firearms these days, what with gun shop inventories picked clean and records being set every month for new gun sales. Still, the Philadelphia Police Department is hoping there might be a few residents ready to hand over their gun in the name of fighting crime.
Amidst a rising tide of gun violence, city officials are hoping residents will search their houses and anonymously turn in any guns they find or don’t want at two church locations Saturday. The guns will then be collected by police.
This message seems largely aimed at parents, who might discover that Junior’s smuggled a pistol into the home and want to get rid of it. I suppose under those circumstances the Philly PD might be able to take possession of a few firearms, but if city officials are serious about bringing down the increasing crime rate, they’re going to need a different strategy altogether.
City Council held a two-day emergency gun violence hearing this week as the number of shootings recorded this year has spiked to more than 1,100 and homicides are up to 260 — both about 30% increases over this time last year, according to police department statistics.
During that hearing, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who took over the department at the beginning of this year, said despite the pandemic officers are still confiscating an average of about 77 guns per week. That’s slightly lower than the 80 guns per week taken last year. Outlaw said the city is second only to Chicago, as of August, in the increasing number of homicides.
So, dozens of illegally possessed guns are being confiscated each week in Philadelphia, but what’s happening to the individuals found in possession of those guns? District Attorney Larry Krasner, who’s been blasted by critics for his soft-on-crime approach in the past, says his office is focusing on violent offenders.
Krasner was the first to address the City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence and even got emotional during the hearing when talking about 7-year-old Zamar Jones, who was killed during gun crossfire in West Philadelphia.
Krasner says his office is pushing for higher bail on those linked to gun crimes.
“What my office is seeing is that bails are too low and often too low on cases that involve shootings, on cases involving felons in possession of firearms,” he said.
Krasner also pointed out that many arrests for non-violent offenses are being deferred by order of the police chief. That mandate, which Chief Danielle Outlaw put in place back in March, was designed to prevent overcrowding at the city jail during the coronavirus pandemic. While the jail’s population has declined to the lowest level in years, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, shootings and homicides are up by 30% compared to last year. Inmates may be at less risk of catching the coronavirus, but Philadelphians are more at risk of being shot. I’m not sure how many residents think that’s a good trade off, frankly.
Now the Philadelphia police are left to plead with folks to turn in any guns they discover in their home, knowing full well that’s not likely to lead to a large number of firearms being turned in or a reduction in violent crime. It’s a sign that city leaders know they have to “do something,” but they’re either unsure or unwilling to do something that’s actually useful.