Mayor Nutter yesterday said he would enforce new city gun-control laws even without state authorization to do so - setting up a possible legal and political showdown between the state and the new mayor.
At the first regular meeting of the new City Council yesterday, Council members Darrell L. Clarke and Donna Reed Miller introduced the same package of gun-control measures that languished last year while the state legislature refused to authorize them.
But these bills have a new wrinkle - they don't call for state-enabling legislation. The previous bills were conditional on companion state laws in recognition of a 1996 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that said cities could not enforce their own gun laws.
But Nutter, Clarke and Miller, frustrated by the repeated failure of gun-control measures in the legislature, now appear ready to do just that.
"If these bills pass and if I sign them, then I expect to enforce them," Nutter said. "If you believe we can have a safer city by putting these measures in place, I think as good public servants we are compelled to take some type of action in the face of no relief coming from anywhere else."
Clarke said only that the new bills are "part of a legal strategy."
The bills would force owners to immediately report stolen guns; set monthly limits for firearms purchases; require vendors to report ammunition sales; and prohibit gun sales to anyone who is the subject of an order of protection.
Temple University law professor David Kairys, a gun-control advocate, said "that's what our City Council and mayor should be doing - they're dealing with an urgent problem."
Kairys said the city's action could set up a test of a new Supreme Court, now under Chief Justice Ronald Castille, the former Philadelphia district attorney who promised to depoliticize the court.
"If there's really going to be a new day in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, this would be a fine place to start," Kairys said.
State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), whose bill to give the municipalities the ability to make their own gun laws was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee last year, said, "My position has always been that the city should have the authority to make its own gun policy, and I will try to do all I can do to get the city that authority."
He added: "As far as their method of handling it, that's their decision."
Nutter said any legislation would have to go through the traditional hearing process and be vetted by the city's law department.
Nutter also transmitted a set of proposed charter changes to Council yesterday that would increase the independence of the Office of Inspector General; allow department heads to hire more deputies who are exempt from Civil Service, a policy Nutter has pushed as critical for management of the Police Department in particular; and to define and separate the duties of the Commerce Department and the city representative.
Also introduced yesterday by Council:
Councilman James F. Kenney's bill to eliminate the requirement that civil service employees live in the city for one year before they are eligible for hire in city jobs. The bill gives nonresidents six months to move in.
A bill from Council newcomers Bill Green, Curtis Jones Jr. and Maria Quiñones Sanchez to prevent future elected officials (themselves included) from joining the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP. Council also approved a resolution by majority leader Marian B. Tasco to hold hearings to determine the cost of DROP, which encourages city employees to stay past retirement by allowing them to begin collecting their pension while working. Green, Jones and Sanchez said it shouldn't apply to elected officials.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced bills to institute professional licensing for tour guides; require any city building to meet national environmental standards; and order dentists to separate mercury from removed fillings to prevent it from reaching the water supply.
An economic package from Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. that forces city departments to track their use of minority contractors; phases out the gross-receipts tax; and requires vendors on city projects to pay 150 percent of the minimum wage and offer equitable health benefits to their employees.
Councilwoman Joan Krajewski said she would hold off on her resolution for hearings on the state of the city's Emergency Medical Service system pending discussions with the Nutter administration.