A national gun-control campaign aimed at "bad apple" firearms dealers took aim in South Philadelphia on Saturday as advocates staged a demonstration in front of a major gun wholesaler and retailer near Front Street and Tasker Avenue.
Several dozen protesters led by the Washington-based Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence singled out Firing Line Inc. for having sold, over the years, dozens of guns that later were used in crimes or in some other way ended up in the possession of law enforcement authorities.
The Brady Center's "bad apple" campaign stop was the third since September, when the effort began in Chicago. It seeks to pressure gun dealers to tighten buyer-screening measures beyond what is required by law.
Several dozen marchers carried signs or pictures of loved ones killed by guns, calling for Firing Line to adopt a "code of conduct" that would include photographing every person who buys a gun there.
"We know that 86 percent of gun dealers do not sell crime guns," Brady Center attorney Rob Wilcox blared through a megaphone while another group stood nearby with signs in support of Firing Line.
"Who sells them?" Wilcox added. "The bad apples!"
The advocacy organization said that 64 guns recovered in crimes between 1989 and 1997 were traced to Firing Line.
More recently, on at least four other occasions, straw purchases have taken place. That is when a third party purchases guns for someone who cannot pass criminal background checks.
"I've got a son and two daughters. I don't want them gunned down," said newly elected State Sen. Arthur Haywood, whose district straddles Cheltenham Township and Northwest Philadelphia. Haywood recently introduced a one-gun-a-month bill that is not likely to move forward in the legislature.
Firing Line owner Gregory Isabella and his attorney, Dan Delcollo Jr., stood in front of the store as his supporters traded chants with Brady protesters a short distance away.
"We have rejected numerous customers from coming and buying at the counter," Isabella said.
His licensed business is in good standing with federal, state, and local authorities, Isabella said, noting that he has volunteered information to investigators on occasion.
The best way to curb gun trafficking, Isabella added, is through enforcement.
His lawyer said taking photographs at the counter would deter customers from doing business there.
"We videotape for security," Delcollo said, "but we don't take a picture of every customer and put it in a file."
Delcollo urged gun-control advocates to instead take their concerns to lawmakers.
White House press secretary Jim Brady was shot and partially paralyzed during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Brady became a national gun-control advocate, and his work led President Bill Clinton in 1993 to sign the Brady Bill into law. It requires all gun buyers to undergo criminal background checks.
Longtime area gun-control activist Bryan Miller was among the activists gathered beneath I-95 at Firing Line's front door.
Miller said the latest push for a Gun Dealer Code of Conduct reflects an effort to supplement the push for tougher laws, which is notoriously difficult given the power of the nation's gun-rights lobby.
Miller described legislative advocacy: "It's long and difficult. And while it's happening, people are dying."