It's time for Philadelphia leaders to understand that lawlessness by the city government is one of the many factors contributing to the city's culture of crime and violence. The lack of respect city officials have shown for the laws of Pennsylvania by passing illegal gun-control ordinances sets a tone for residents that honoring the rule of law is optional in this city.

When the City Council passed and Mayor Nutter signed a package of gun-control bills that limits the ability of law-abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms, they brazenly declared themselves independent from the laws of the commonwealth. It didn't take long for the first suburb, Lower Chichester, to follow by unlawfully passing its own arbitrary gun-control laws.

Yet, what baffles me the most is that these leaders wonder where criminals get the idea that laws don't apply to them! Don't they see the example they set so publicly? The willful defiance has made headlines for weeks, reminding residents that the Council, mayor and police commissioner consider themselves to be above state law. Why shouldn't average citizens be as well?

District Attorney Lynne Abraham understands the rule of law, as do many police officers, who have voiced opposition to enforcing these measures they know to be illegal. They have reason to be concerned. If they knowingly enforce laws that have been previously declared illegal, they may be found liable in lawsuits. Those are lawsuits that they don't want to battle and the city can't afford to fight.

However, not to be stopped by the city attorneys, who actually have to stand in front of judges and argue the validity of the laws, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is encouraging the Council and mayor to ignore the legal advice against enforcing the ordinances. He was recently quoted arguing in favor of the illegal measures that "as far as I am concerned, the laws are valid, and we will act as if this whole conversation with the D.A. just didn't take place."

When the chief law-enforcement officer so shamelessly encourages city leaders to pretend they didn't hear legal advice from other officials, advice that could save thousands in taxpayer funds for litigation, it's time to question if he really has the best interest of the city in mind.

Lawful gun owners are not the problem, and our city leaders know it. They are in a better position than most to see the justice system turning criminals out to the streets, rather than putting them in prison. To solve the crime problems in Philadelphia and in other communities, leaders must be willing to embrace the rule of law, not blatantly sacrifice it for political points.

Until our elected officials learn to abide by the law, we gun owners will have to set an example. In what is only the first of many steps, gun-owner groups have filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of the Philadelphia gun-control ordinances. Those of us who live in the city will continue to lawfully keep and bear our arms, waiting on the city to follow our lead in respecting the laws and constitution of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.