Obama names Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey to gun-violence discussion group

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey
Posted: December 20, 2012

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has been asked to participate in a national discussion as part of President Obama's efforts to address gun violence in the aftermath of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, Obama named Vice President Biden to lead a group expected to come up with recommendations and proposals in the next few weeks. Ramsey will travel to Washington on Thursday to offer his input, as will other law enforcement leaders from around the country and federal officials.

Ramsey has been a vocal - and frustrated - supporter of tougher gun-control laws. "If there was some new disease that took 9,000 lives every year, we'd do something about it," he told The Inquirer in October.

Ramsey could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in the past, he has also expressed skepticism about overhauling existing laws, saying many policymakers lack the courage to make permanent change.

"Our cities are hemorrhaging," Ramsey told The Inquirer after the shootings in July in Aurora, Colo. "Why can you buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet and no one bats an eye? You should have to register any legal sale of any firearm. You need some requirement of background checks, even if it's a private sale, otherwise it's one big loophole."

Ramsey serves as head of two national organizations, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC10, Ramsey said what he would like to see happen.

"I believe there should be an assault-weapon ban," he said.

"I believe we ought to have regulations around registration, about transferring firearms from one person to another."

There should be "training in place for people who buy a firearm to make sure they know how to properly operate a firearm," he said.

"Some controls around ammunition - stop people from being able to buy these weapons and ammunition on the Internet," he said.

He added, "We need to sit down and have a reasonable response. I think there are extremes on both sides of the debate."

After the Aurora massacre, Ramsey tried to refocus attention on gun violence in Philadelphia.

"I understand the attention, and my heart goes out to the victims' families and to all the victims of gun violence," he said. "But it happens here every day."

As of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, there had been 321 homicides in Philadelphia, compared with 317 the same time last year, according to the Police Department website.

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun-control advocacy group, called Obama's formation of the task force, which is supposed to have recommendations ready next month, a "promising step."

Goodman said the most important change that could result would be a requirement that background checks be performed for every sale of guns or ammunition. That would eliminate the loophole that allows unchecked sales at gun shows.

The National Rifle Association had remained silent on the massacre until Tuesday, when it said it was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again" and would hold a "major news conference" on Friday.


Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com. Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983, bmoran@phillynews.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.

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