Fed up with foot-dragging in Harrisburg over gun control, Philadelphia is now taking its case to court.
City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke said last night that the city plans to file a lawsuit today in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court alleging that the General Assembly has failed in its duty to protect the residents of the city.
"It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the General Assembly is unwilling or unable to act," Clarke said in a telephone interview last night. "We have no choice but to go to court."
Straw purchases have proliferated dramatically because the state has failed to enact laws that rein them in, he said.
In a straw purchase, somebody legally acquires a firearm and then sells it to somebody else who is not eligible to own one, such as a convicted felon on parole or probation. Critics say that straw purchases are responsible for much of the firepower on the city's streets.
In addition to authorizing the suit today, Council intends to approve eight gun-control measures that have been languishing in Council for more than a year, Clarke said.
Among other things, the bills call for limiting handgun purchases to one a month, and for owners to report any guns that are lost or stolen, Clark said.
David Kairys, a professor at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University, said that the laws Council is expected to enact today should be valid because of the city's Home Rule Charter. But the charter's power is diminishing, he said.
"The legislature and the Supreme Court have so undercut it that it's hard to say we have home rule anymore," said Kairys, who in the 1990s led the city's legal team in an unsuccessful court challenge against handgun manufacturers.
He said he could not comment on the particulars of the lawsuit to be filed today because he hadn't seen it.
Clarke said that while several members of the city's Harrisburg delegation had worked tirelessly on the gun-control issue, they had not been able to sway their more-rural colleagues to their side.
"The fact that we are approaching 150 murders means that we can no longer wait for them to get their act together," he said. As of midnight Tuesday, 137 homicides had occurred in the city.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) that called for gun registration and an annual fee of $10 a gun triggered a massive outcry from opponents who said they felt the legislation threatened their right to own guns. Several lawmakers who initially supported Cruz's measure have since backed off.