HARRISBURG - Mayor Nutter said yesterday he will work with anyone willing to help him address the gun violence that plagues Philadelphia and other parts of the state.
Nutter, who took office in January, told a Pennsylvania Press Club lunch he was interested in "a different kind of dialogue," and that both sides have to be more realistic.
"I'm committed to working with anyone who is serious about this issue," he said. "And if we could, on both sides I guess, tone down some of the rhetoric, and be that much more direct and serious about how we discuss these issues, all of us will be that much better off."
His priorities include requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons - a proposal the Legislature has resisted - and reinstating a federal crackdown on assault weapons.
John Hohenwarter, state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said city officials should concentrate instead on improving the criminal-justice system.
"I'm disappointed that the mayor continues to focus on the firearm and not the criminal," Hohenwarter said. "You have a revolving-door courtroom, and you have intervention programs which just aren't working or
they're just not there. You have to make sure you keep the bad guy in jail."
Nutter spoke of the May 3 fatal shooting of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, who was struck by multiple bullets from a Chinese SKS rifle while responding to a bank robbery. There is no legitimate reason to possess such high-powered weapons, he said.
"Certainly they're not used for sport, they're not used for hunting, they're not used for target practice," Nutter said. "Because, quite honestly, the devastation these weapons were designed to create leaves virtually nothing left."
He said gun violence affects many lives.
"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but I'm also a strong supporter of the First Amendment," he said. "And one of those tenets is that people have the right to peacefully assemble."
He said elected officials have a responsibility to address gun violence, and he argued that most Pennsylvanians support discussions.
"Reasonable people must have reasonable conversations on behalf of the law-abiding citizens of the commonwealth, and [on] behalf of those who seek to be safe, who seek to be free," he said.
"We cannot make progress as long as we are talking past each other." *