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Jill Porter: Breathtaking actions to make city thug-free

THE CITY OF Philadelphia is no longer a safe harbor for thugs. Not for thugs on the streets, not for thugs in the Police Department, not for thugs in the gun lobby.

THE CITY OF Philadelphia is no longer a safe harbor for thugs.

Not for thugs on the streets, not for thugs in the Police Department, not for thugs in the gun lobby.

Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have made that clear in the last few days.

And no matter what you think of the firing of rogue cops and the challenge to the state's gun laws, you have to applaud the bold decisiveness that has replaced the paralysis that passed for leadership under their predecessors.

The firing of cops who indiscriminately beat three suspects after a car chase, and the passage of local gun restrictions, are controversial, radical - and necessary.

They reinvigorate a civic sense of empowerment after years of frustration.

And they clearly embody what should be Nutter's new slogan:

"Doing nothing is not an option."

The mayor made that comment after signing a new firearms law passed by City Council in defiance of the state prohibition against local gun regulations.

The law would require the reporting of lost and stolen guns, limit purchases to one a month, ban assault weapons and institute other crucial restrictions.

Nutter knew, and so did Council, what a judge said on Monday:

"It's the state that regulates firearms and that's plain as day," said Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan.

The judge almost certainly will uphold the National Rifle Association's challenge to the city law, as she indicated she had no choice but to do.

But the city vowed to appeal.

You can argue that fighting the battle is a waste of city resources, given the clarity of the law.

And I personally don't think Philadelphia-only gun rules make sense, because the two gun shops that are challenging the law along with the NRA can just set up shop in a county next door.

Even some advocates of gun restrictions disapprove of the city's "stunt," arguing that unseating opponents in the Legislature is the only way to accomplish the goal of gun limits.

But I applaud the mayor and Council for the audacious act of civic disobedience.

(I even agree with the NRA lawyer's demand that Nutter be arrested for "official oppression." What a great photo op: a mayor behind bars trying to protect his constituents from gun violence.)

The "stunt" keeps the issue in the public eye, keeps the pressure on state legislators and may even result in new state regulations.

Who knows? Maybe there will be a courageous, defiant judge along the way who understands the plight of the city and the need to get illegal guns off the street.

I also applaud Ramsey's breathtaking action in firing, demoting and suspending police officers who were videotaped beating three men after a car chase triggered by a shooting.

"I thought he took appropriate action, one we've not seen taken in Philadelphia - ever," said William Johnson, head of the Police Advisory Commission.

"Time will determine whether or not the disciplinary action will stand up. For the time being, I think it was the right thing to do."

Consider that it took two years for police to be disciplined in the city's previous notorious police beating - that of Thomas Jones on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

A grand jury exonerated the police a year later. And it took another 16 months for police to be disciplined.

The most severe sanction was a 15-day suspension.

Ramsey acted within two weeks, with what seems to be appropriate punishment.

"It sends a good message to the public that there's accountability in the department," Johnson said, "that these kinds of incidents aren't going to be ignored or take so long that people are going to forget about it."

The actions of Ramsey and Nutter also have sent a message to those of us beaten in a different way: beaten into passive resignation that there's nothing the city can do about crime, about guns, about much of anything.

We don't have to feel powerless and paralyzed any more.

Because the city of Philadelphia is no longer a safe harbor for thugs. *

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