Philadelphia could soon have laws that define attacks on gay and disabled people as hate crimes, ban the sale and possession of realistic-looking toy guns, and increase the penalties for selling BB guns to minors.
Following a nearly three-hour meeting, City Council's Committee on Public Safety approved three bills and sent them for a vote to the full Council.
The hate-crime addition to the City Code, triggered by the Sept. 11 assault on a gay couple in Center City, is expected to be approved by Council, and Mayor Nutter has been sympathetic to issues concerning the LGBT community in the past.
The code does not have a hate-crime section, although it contains laws against ethnic intimidation and institutional vandalism.
Philadelphia Police Capt. Francis Healy testified in favor of the bill, but added that it would be better if the state enacted such a law. "We are going to continue to pressure Harrisburg" to pass a state hate-crime law, he said.
The state does have a hate-crime law, but it applies only to attacks based on gender, religion, or ethnicity. A bill to include hate crimes based on sexual orientation was introduced last month, and has stalled.
If the local hate-crime ordinance is approved, it would mandate higher penalties for any crime committed against a person because of hatred toward that person's "perceived sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, or disability."
A violation would add up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, the proposed ordinance says.
The committee also heard testimony on bills that would ban the sale of realistic-looking toy guns and increase the penalties for anyone selling a BB gun to minors.
The city bans the sales of BB guns, although federal law prohibits such a ban.
The proposed law would revoke for up to a year the business licenses of stores that sell BB guns to minors. They could also be fined up to $2,000.
Healy said BB guns are dangerous because they look like real guns, and an officer could respond with deadly force.