Gun scofflaws

Posted: May 19, 2008

ONE THING to remember about the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force is not how many guns it confiscates, but the people it arrests. And there is one other thing: the amount of noise it makes on the streets.

Last week the task force, funded by a $5 million state grant championed by state Sen. Vince Fumo, announced 19 people had been charged with illegally transferring handguns.

Since December 2006, the task force, which includes representatives of the offices of the district attorney, attorney general and Philadelphia police, has arrested 165 people and taken in 262 firearms. The 19 include "straw" purchasers and ex-felons who used straw purchasers to buy them guns. The task force has discovered that the best deterrent for straw purchasers, who must have clean criminal records to purchase a gun, is that they can foul up their record and even go to jail for buying a gun for someone other than themselves. So outreach - ads, word of mouth and public service announcements that warn about straw purchasing - are effective.

There were 404 shootings in the first quarter of 2007. For the same period this year, there were 306. The drop may just be a blip in the crime cycle, but we'll take it. *

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