Pa. plan to get tougher on illegal weapons in Philly draws widepread support

It’s not every day that Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as law enforcement officials from Philadelphia and the suburbs, gather in a room to  support a piece of legislation.  On Thursday, at Philadelphia Police headquarters, that’s exactly what happened. 

District attorneys from Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware counties joined a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers to discuss new state legislation setting a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for illegally carrying a firearm in Philadelphia. 

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was adamantly in favor of the legislation that he says could save lives. 

“I want people all across Philadelphia to know, you carry, you do two! That’s the message that we’ll have to go forward,”  Williams said.

Williams, who terms gun violence as the single biggest threat to public safety in the city of Philadelphia, said it’s time for lawmakers to protect their constituents.

“In 2012, we witnessed, we experienced 334 homicides.  Eighty-five percent of them were committed with handguns.  Not one of those homicides commited with a handgun was committed by a person that lawfully possessed the firearm,” he said. “Not one.”

State Rep. John Taylor, a Republican, supports the legislation. 

“This is not a gun bill,” he said. “It is a crime-fighting tool that the police in Philadelphia and the district attorneys in Philadelphia, desperately need.”

Williams insisted the legislation should not be controversial — because it targets those illegally carrying firearms and, he said, it is not about gun control or the Second Amendment.  Williams hopes Philadelphia will see results similar to New York City where a mandatory minimum was established and violent crime has fallen significantly.  

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Delaware County District Attorney John Whelan said the legislation could also help reduce violence in their areas.

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