Since mid-2004, City Councilman Darrell Clarke has had a handful of gun-control bills on deck, ready for the near-unanimous support of his colleagues.
What's held him in check is that only the commonwealth can legislate in the area of firearms, and unless the General Assembly will delegate power to the city, Council's actions would be dead on arrival.
But the city's mounting homicide rate and inaction in Harrisburg have pushed Clarke on a new tack. Today, he plans to seek final passage on eight gun-control bills that have been gathering dust on the weekly Council agenda.
What's different is that he says Council also is preparing to file a legal complaint related to the Legislature's inaction.
"Gun-violence numbers continue to mount and we will quickly be over 150 homicides before the month is out," Clarke said. "We think it's time to look at another strategy, and we're prepared to go to court."
Bills before Council would limit the number of firearm purchases by an individual to one per month, require reporting ammunition sales to the Police Department and require gun owners to report to police within 24 hours the loss or theft of a weapon.
Asked how Council can move forward on the bills without a state enabling law, Clarke said, "We think that with our complaint, we will show in our theory that the state has been negligent in terms of enacting good-sense legislation. We think we have a compelling case."
Joe Grace, Mayor Street's spokesman, declined to comment, but he noted, "The mayor has consistently stated that the General Assembly should pass strict gun laws and we need the legislative action now."
With a primary election less than two weeks away, are political motives part of this two-pronged action? Clarke said no.
"If you look at my record, it's clear that it's not motivated by any political causes," he said.
"It's motivated by the fact that people continue to be killed on the streets of Philadelphia. Harrisburg continues with its ridiculous inaction on this matter, and I think it's time to do something." *