Grassroots anti-violence group pushes “code of conduct” for gun-shop owners

Anti-gun violence activists rallied outside of City Hall earlier this week to ask city officials to help cut down on the illegal flow of firearms from area stores to the streets.

During the International Day of Peace event on Wednesday, participants called on Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, City Council and others to require gun shop owners to adopt a code of conduct if they want to be awarded an operating license. Posting and practicing the code, they argue, will help keep legally purchased guns from hitting the black market.

The 10-point code, created by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), asks gun store owners to videotape all transactions, run criminal background checks on all employees and keep better track of inventory, among other things. Mayor Nutter is part of that nationwide coalition.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman, who heads Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Roxborough, said Mayor Nutter’s participation in MAIG should make their request a “no-brainer.”

“Mayor Nutter has been adamant about getting guns off the street and that has been one of his major issues,” said Holtzman. “For him, that would be something that he would be very receptive to.”

However, Rev. Bill Golderer of the Broad Street Ministry questioned why Mayor Nutter didn’t join the dozens that gathered at Dilworth Plaza as part of an event affiliated to the statewide effort called Heeding God’s Call.

“We ask the mayor, ‘Why are you sitting up there when you can be down here standing alongside us?'” said Golderer as rush-hour traffic raced around the crowd.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison said the Nutter administration has been “very supportive” of the MAIG code.

“These seem to be common sense and would be good business practices going forward,” he said. “I would think these things would be things that people would embrace.”

Gillison said he isn’t sure the city government can make the 10-point code mandatory for gun shop owners. He said such a move may be pre-empted by state or federal laws, which limit the steps a city can take on gunc control.

The grassroots, interfaith organization also publicly acknowledged the 186 individuals that have been killed by gunfire in the city this year.

Before arriving at City Hall, participants gathered at 16th and Christian streets in South Philadelphia for a short prayer program. There, on July 1, Benjamin Butcher, 20, was killed by gunfire. He was one of five killed that weekend.

The group then marched up Broad Street accompanied by bagpipes.

Robert Fles, a member of Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a Northwest Philadelphia-based organization affiliated with Heeding God’s Call, said he typically protests outside of gun shops suspected of allowing straw purchases.  Straw buyers are people who buy guns on behalf of other people who can not legally buy firearms because of prior convictions.

Wednesday’s event  meshed with that effort, he said. “This event is very much connected to public attention and public pressure.”

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