Joe Grace, communications director for outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Street, will begin work next month as executive director of CeaseFire PA, the nonprofit group dedicated to reducing handgun violence in Pennsylvania by promoting tough penalties for illegal gun possession.

Grace, a lawyer, has been chief spokesman for Street since 2005. In 2002, he was deputy campaign manager for Gov. Rendell.

In announcing the appointment yesterday, CeaseFire president Phil Goldsmith said Grace's experience with Street - who is a member of the national coalition of mayors against gun violence headed by New York's Michael Bloomberg and Boston's Tom Menino - would help to raise CeaseFire's advocacy to "the next level." Goldsmith said Grace is scheduled to begin his new job in mid-January after taking a week "to exhale."

Tough measures, including legislation to limit handgun purchases to one a month, have been proposed routinely in the Pennsylvania legislature and rejected routinely. What's needed, Grace said, is "sustained, statewide advocacy, building coalitions from city to city." He cited a recent poll commissioned by the city of Philadelphia, CeaseFire PA, and the group Safe and Sound that surveyed six sections of the state, "from Erie to Lancaster to the Lehigh Valley, that showed overwhelming support across party lines for stronger handgun laws."

- Michael Matza