Pennsylvania and local law enforcement officials yesterday launched a campaign aimed at making potential straw purchasers think twice before buying a gun for a felon.
The campaign - "Think Again: Gun Violence and Straw Purchasing" - is encapsulated in a 13-minute video produced by state Attorney General Tom Corbett, complete with mournful music, graphic images, and emotional testimony about suffering caused by gun violence.
For those unmoved by the video, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham delivered a more blunt message yesterday by announcing the arrests of 13 people charged with illegal firearms transfers, including five alleged straw buyers. She said two allegedly had bought dozens of guns and peddled them on the street.
State law prohibits convicted felons from buying firearms and requires gun dealers to perform a record check before making a sale. Felons sometimes use "straws" - people with no criminal record - to buy guns for them.
Branding anybody who acts as a straw buyer "a fool, a liar, and a bad person," Abraham said the blood of gun-violence victims was on the hands of straw purchasers. "It's all on you," she said.
The campaign also has an additional intended audience: the state legislature.
Corbett said the $5 million in annual funding for the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force, which pays the salaries of prosecutors, investigators and forensic technicians, was up for renewal. Abraham said the task force had opened 621 investigations, arrested 179 people, and seized 265 firearms since it began in December 2006.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Jose M. Melendez, who also attended the news conference, said straw buyers were "just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger."
Abraham acknowledged, however, that straw purchasers were rarely prosecuted for crimes others committed with the guns. To prosecute such a case, she said, prosecutors need to establish that a straw buyer knew of the intended crime before the gun was transferred.
The straw purchasers whose arrests were announced yesterday were charged with gun violations and conspiracy, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Those whose arrests were announced yesterday are:
25, of the 6700 block of Akron Street, Philadelphia, a convicted drug dealer charged with obtaining a handgun through a straw buyer.
36, of the 6000 block of North 21st Street, Philadelphia, who has a criminal record and was charged with trying to buy a .40-caliber handgun at a gun show.
41, of Olive Avenue, Horsham, a convicted felon charged with using a straw purchase to buy two handguns that he then sold. One was recovered at a shooting.
26, of the 1600 block of North 33d Street, Philadelphia, who allegedly threatened a repo man with an unlicensed .32-caliber handgun.
27, of the 1900 block of North 10th Street, Philadelphia, accused of buying a .380-caliber handgun and giving it to a convicted drug dealer. Police recovered the firearm from a third man, who used it to make a threat.
42, of the 4900 block of Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia, who allegedly purchased 23 handguns over eight years and traded them for money or drugs. Police have recovered 14 of the guns, including one used in a killing.
27, of the 2300 block of Susquehanna Avenue, Philadelphia, charged with illegally purchasing a shotgun and two handguns, one of them used in a drive-by shooting.
35, of the 7500 block of Brockton Road, Philadelphia, who allegedly purchased 32 handguns, only seven of which have been recovered.
28, of the 1200 block of South 51st Street, Philadelphia, allegedly a straw purchaser of three handguns, including one that police recovered after a shooting.
24, of the 1200 block of South 49th Street, Philadelphia, who allegedly sold a .40-caliber handgun and falsely reported it stolen.
a 14-year-old from Northeast Philadelphia, who allegedly stole a .40-caliber handgun from a neighbor and sold it on the street. The gun was recovered in connection with a home robbery.
22, of the 7900 block of Ditman Street, Philadelphia, who alleged stole three handguns from a relative and sold them on the street.
25, of the 1400 block of Pacific Street, Philadelphia, who allegedly purchased two handguns for her children's father, a man arrested more than 20 times.
The video is available from the Office of the Attorney General's Education and Outreach Unit by calling 1-800-525-7642 or by e-mailing