As expected, the National Rifle Association sprinted into court and got a temporary hold yesterday on the five gun-control laws enacted in Philadelphia.

Unexpected, however, was District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham's announcing that she wouldn't prosecute anyone charged under the new ordinances.

Call it selective prosecution.

Fed up with the daily shootings in Philadelphia, the City Council passed - and Mayor Nutter promptly signed - ordinances last week that limit handgun purchases, target gun trafficking, and subject gun ownership to much-needed greater oversight by the Police Department.

Kudos to Council and the mayor for their strong stand. Too bad Abraham refused to stand by them.

Abraham believes the new laws are unconstitutional. She may be right. But with all due respect to wannabe


Abraham, she should enforce the laws on the books, not interpret them.

Nutter rightly says he'll deal with the legal fallout. The mayor and Council are well-aware of a 1996 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that says only the state General Assembly has the power to regulate firearms.

Nutter also is aware of the 392 murders in the city last year - many committed with stolen handguns. He doesn't plan to fiddle while lawmakers in Harrisburg look the other way.

Nutter is outraged by the shootings, and frankly, so are many others in the city and the suburbs - including gun owners. Polls show the public favors reasonable gun-control measures.

Council's unanimous passage of the gun laws was intended to highlight the inaction in Harrisburg. Last month, state lawmakers rejected a measure requiring owners to report lost and stolen guns.

Despite the setback, and the city efforts, the best chances for gun-control reform remain in the state capitals.

New Jersey passed its anti-trafficking gun-reporting law, and nearly a dozen states are at work on similar proposals. All told, dozens of gun-safety reforms are being promoted in nearly half the states.

The fight for better gun-control laws should continue in Harrisburg. That's the best way for gun-plagued communities across the state to get help.

Indeed, the district attorney has been a valuable ally in the fight for better gun-control measures in Pennsylvania. But it would've been more helpful for Abraham to back the city ordinances in order to present a unified front.