Mt. Airy resident takes leadership role in fight against illegal guns

In the coming weeks, officials with CeaseFirePA, a statewide anti-gun violence organization, will convene to talk strategy for 2012. An East Mt. Airy resident will be at the table.

Dan Muroff was recently elected to head the group’s Board of Directors. He replaced Phil Goldsmith, who was board president for five years.

“It’s a challenge, but I’m excited to take it on,” said Muroff, who took over the volunteer position in October.

Muroff is past president of East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) and managing director of the Liberty Square Group’s Philadelphia office.

Muroff is already familiar with the organization’s work. For the past four years, he served on the CeaseFirePA board. He also worked with the group while serving as Chief Counsel to Pennsylvania state Senator LeAnna Washington (D., 4th).

Washington, whose district includes parts of Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Germantown, wanted to tackle gun violence. Ensuing discussions around the issue included conversations with CeaseFirePA.

“Not merely gun violence, but the wide availability and accessibility of handguns to children. The amount of kids under 18 who has access to handguns is shocking,” said Muroff.

It was that experience that sparked Muroff’s interest in the organization. He will now play a more prominent role in shaping the group’s agenda in a state that continues to be a stronghold of anti-gun control sentiment, with the National Rifle Association leading the way.

Muroff isn’t expecting that tide to turn in the near future, but is encouraged by the progress he’s recently seen around the issue.

He pointed specifically to the state Supreme Court’s decision that it would not hear the NRA’s challenge to a Pittsburgh ordinance that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police within 24 hours of discovery. The court ruled that the organization does not have legal standing to dispute the ordinance.

“There are small successes and they add up to being a very viable, vibrant and effective force,” said Muroff. “I feel like there has been some movement and it speaks well of the organization [CeaseFirePA].”

Asked about CeaseFire’s approach in the New Year, Muroff was mostly mum, saying that those details had yet to be hashed out by a full board.

“The successes we’ve had in the past we’re going to want to build upon and we may want to branch into new and additional branches as well,” he said. “Not every one of those directions has to be a battle with the NRA. It’s not only about legislation. It’s also about the culture. Legislation plays a large role in that, but it’s hardly exclusive.”

There are, however, at least two gun-related measures currently being debated by lawmakers that groups like CeaseFirePA are likely to weigh in on this year.

The first is centered on what is commonly referred to as the “Florida loophole,” which enables Pennsylvanians who are denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the state to still do so if another state approves a permit. Pennsylvania has Firearms Reciprocity Agreement with Florida and residents can obtain a permit from the Sunshine State online.

This issue is playing out at the city, state and national level.

A measure is moving through Congress that would extend the loophole to every state that issues concealed carry permits.

“Basically the standard for carrying a concealed gun would be the lowest standard in the country,” said David Kairys, a law professor with Temple University who lives in Mt. Airy.

“We in Pennsylvania, and particularly in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, would lose the power even on the state level to do anything about this,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved the bill. It is now up for a vote in the Senate.

The “Florida loophole” was also taken up by Philadelphia City Council. In February, the local legislative body approved a bill sponsored by Councilman Darrell Clarke that demands that Philadelphians only be allowed to carry a concealed weapon if they have a permit from Pennsylvania.

It’s not clear if the law will stand as cities in Pennsylvania are not allowed to enact measures that go beyond what’s on state books.

Efforts in the state’s General Assembly to close the loophole have so far been unsuccessful. A House bill was defeated in March.

The second measure would require gun owners to report a firearm that is lost or stolen to police within 24 hours of it missing.

“This is to get at the problem of straw purchases,” said Kairys.

That practice centers on the illegal flow of firearms from gun shops to those barred by law from carrying a weapon. The guns are typically sold to “straw buyers,” people that can legally purchase guns. The straw buyers then resell them on the black market

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