In his inaugural address earlier this month, Mayor Nutter declared that reducing gun violence would be one of his top priorities. That task is all the more urgent now that the city has seen a spate of senseless killings, including a triple shooting in Juniata Park.
The mayor has done a good job of expressing community outrage and empathizing with the survivors, but so far his antiviolence agenda is short on new specifics.
More cops are coming, the mayor says, and he's promised a crackdown on illegal guns. He has also repeatedly called for closing the Florida loophole, which lets Pennsylvania residents with high-risk backgrounds obtain permits to carry a concealed weapon.
Spokesman Mark McDonald says Mayor Nutter will offer "a more expansive description of where we're headed regarding violence" early next week.
One key element should be a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal guns. As law enforcement officials repeatedly point out, nearly every gun-related crime in the city is committed by someone who is not legally allowed to have one. The mayor should work with state and federal authorities to conduct stings and undercover operations that interrupt the pipeline of illegal guns.
And when gun offenders are caught, they should face tough sentences - no handing out probation as if it were a minor offense. The mayor and District Attorney Seth Williams are trying to discourage overuse of costly, and often counterproductive, incarceration, and that's a worthy goal, but those who are caught with illegal weapons are high-risk offenders who deserve to be locked up.
Mayor Nutter may also want to see about strengthening the city's law requiring gun owners to report when a weapon is lost or stolen. That law is a key tool for deterring straw buyers from supplying guns to those who can't legally have one. When an illegal gun is traced back to a straw buyer, he or she can say, without any proof, "Gee, I lost it," and the trail goes cold.
While trying to choke off the supply of illegal guns, the city must also work to cut the demand for them, as Nutter noted in his inaugural speech. The city must help steer potential offenders away from resorting to violence and try to heal the dysfunction afflicting families and neighborhoods. No question, that's a tougher job, and those efforts won't show immediate results, but no antiviolence campaign can succeed without them.