The wounding of a city police detective yesterday and a 12-year-old West Philadelphia boy's critical shooting on Wednesday offer the latest proof that the struggle to keep guns out of the hands of would-be killers is far from over.
That makes a rare victory for gun-control advocates this week all the more sweet. In a convincing, 7-2 decision Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 1996 law written by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) that bars anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning a firearm.
The decision will preserve safeguards for thousands of women, who are most often the victims of domestic abuse. Lautenberg says the law has helped keep more than 150,000 guns out of the hands of abusers. The ruling also protects police officers, who are first responders in domestic disputes.
Having overturned the District of Columbia's handgun ban last year, the Supreme Court raised the prospect that an individual's right to possess weapons under the Second Amendment would trump commonsense gun-safety laws. But the court's new ruling shows there's more hope for stemming gun violence.
For Philadelphia police, though, the life-threatening dangers they face daily remain a harsh reality.
The Police Department was less than a week from burying one of its slain heroes, Officer John Pawlowski, when a 20-year veteran assigned to the major crimes unit was shot in the leg yesterday by a fleeing gunman. The assailant was shot dead by police moments later.
The recovery of a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol at the scene, near Germantown and Indiana Avenues in North Philadelphia, was fresh evidence that the bad guys never want for firepower. Officer Pawlowski's accused killer was said by police to have wielded a .357 magnum.
A teenage assailant who police said shot a 12-year-old acquaintance at 61st and Spruce Streets was able to squeeze off multiple rounds from a 9mm pistol before fleeing. His victim was said to be fighting for his life yesterday.
The plague of shootings may be a reflection of the disregard for human life in some inner-city neighborhoods. But as Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey noted, it's the easy access to weapons that lets "young men use violence and gunfire to settle scores."
As always, the question is how long Pennsylvania lawmakers under the sway of the National Rifle Association are going to sit on their hands rather than enact reasonable gun-control measures that could help stem the carnage.
The simple requirement that a gun owner must report any lost or stolen weapon would trip up many straw purchasers, who illegally sell weapons and then, when a weapon turns up in a crime, try to claim that it was misplaced or stolen.
Pennsylvania also should limit handgun purchases to one per month as a means of thwarting legal buyers who are fronting for gun traffickers.