Philly DA Offers Excuses, Not Evidence For Lack Of Gun Prosecutions

2020 has been a brutal year for the crime rate in Philadelphia. The city will end the year with close to 500 homicides, which would be the most since 1990, and Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner is getting a lot of criticism for his light-on-crime approach to prosecutions, including a growing number of dismissals of cases dealing with illegal possession of a firearm.

On Wednesday, Krasner offered up an excuse for the increase in dismissed charges; a lack of witness cooperation. The only problem is that Krasner doesn’t have much evidence to back up his assertion.

Still, in written testimony submitted to members of City Council, Krasner said that staffers who studied about 400 such cases found that those issues had been generally steady since at least 2016 — leaving them unable to say why more gun-related prosecutions were being withdrawn or dismissed during Krasner’s administration than during his predecessors’.

“We continue to analyze what drove a higher dismissal and withdrawal rate in 2018-2019,” says the testimony, a copy of which Krasner’s office shared with The Inquirer.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 48% of gun possession cases have been dropped by Krasner’s office this year. Before the far-left attorney took over the office in 2017, the “share of illegal gun-possession cases withdrawn or dismissed never topped 29%.”

Clearly something’s going on here, and I suspect that Krasner knows exactly what’s taking place even as he tries to shield himself from criticism. After all, non-violent possessory gun offenses aren’t the only crimes that Krasner’s office is failing to prosecute. Earlier this year the Philadelphia Citizen reported on details of a new report by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund that highlighted the widespread reduction in felony prosecutions coming from the Philly D.A.’s office.

The report makes the case that, in his ideological zeal, Krasner is failing to prosecute felony offenses. Compared to his predecessor Seth Williams’ average conviction rates, Krasner has dropped or lost 26 percent more felony cases. He has dismissed or lost 14 percent more robbery cases, 37 percent more car theft cases, and 21 percent more drug sales cases. (Krasner has dismissed or lost an eye-opening 55 percent of drug sales cases, which backs up the anecdotal evidence offered by those in law enforcement who claim that street corner drug dealers joke that “Uncle Larry” has their back when cops take them in.)

Here’s the data point that jumped out at me: In his first two years in office, Krasner dropped or lost 47 percent of all illegal firearms cases—a  rate 42 percent higher than under Williams. And Krasner’s rate of gun violence convictions is 21 percent lower than his predecessor.

As someone who believes that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental, I’m not really concerned with Krasner’s lack of enforcement when it comes to prosecuting those caught carrying without a license, because I don’t believe that a license should be required to bear arms in the first place. Krasner, however, isn’t making some pro-2A stand by dropping gun possession cases. Instead, it’s part of a broader effort to reduce jail and prison populations for all felony offenses, even violent ones, and even at the expense of public safety.

That’s the real issue with Krasner’s ideology, and unfortunately he’s far from the only prosecutor around the country with the same myopic mindset. From Philly to L.A. there are a growing number of district attorneys who, like Krasner, see the prosecution of violent offenders are more problematic than the crimes they’ve committed, and you just have to look at the skyrocketing crime rate in Philadelphia to see where that ideology will take us.

Apr 15, 2021 2:30 PM ET