Phila. set to sue for tougher gun laws

Posted: July 11, 2007

Philadelphia City Council members Darrell L. Clarke and Donna Reed Miller, stonewalled by the Pennsylvania legislature's continued apathy on gun control, said they would sue the state today for Philadelphia's right to enforce its own, stricter firearms laws.

In what has been regarded as a legal long shot, the lawsuit will seek to force the state House and Senate to do what they have refused to do: allow the city to force owners to immediately report stolen guns and to set monthly limits for firearms purchases, among other things.

The state Legislative Black Caucus had threatened to hold up the state budget over the stolen-gun-reporting requirement, but finally settled for support of two other gun bills - regarded by city officials as minor - and a promise for further discussion.

"I don't know what moves these people," Clarke said. "This has had no movement, so we're going to court."

Clarke would not provide a copy of the suit before it was filed today.

Council in May passed eight gun-control laws that cannot be enforced without enabling legislation by the General Assembly.

Those laws, in addition to those regarding stolen guns and purchase limits, include a requirement that vendors report ammunition sales and a prohibition on gun sales to anyone who is the subject of an order of protection.

"We just want them to give us the authority to enact our own gun laws," Reed Miller said.

The bills that are now moving through the House of Representatives would compel police departments to trace handguns confiscated from anyone under 21, while applying stiffer penalties for crimes committed with a handgun to rifles and other long guns.

Although he's not a party to the lawsuit, Mayor Street supports Clarke and Reed Miller "for any effort to get the General Assembly to understand that this is a statewide problem requiring a statewide effort," spokesman Joe Grace said yesterday.

Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or

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