Philly mayor bans guns at city recreation facilities

Mayor Kenney signs a document at a table surrounded by other elected officials.

Mayor Jim Kenney signs an executive order banning guns from Philadelphia parks on Sept. 27, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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Guns are not allowed to be carried at indoor or outdoor recreation facilities in Philadelphia under an executive order signed by Mayor Jim Kenney Tuesday.

Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said the move comes after the death of Tiffany Fletcher, a recreation department employee killed during a shootout at Mill Creek Playground earlier this month.

“We can’t say this often enough, young people are always welcome in our parks and playgrounds, guns are not.”

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Parks and Rec Director Kathryn Ott Lovell speaks at the signing of an executive order from Mayor Jim Kenney banning guns from Philadelphia parks.
Parks and Rec Director Kathryn Ott Lovell speaks at the signing of an executive order from Mayor Jim Kenney banning guns from Philadelphia parks on Sept. 27, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney said the order would empower city employees to act. “This is to give some peace of mind and capacity to give rec center employees the ability to call police when they see someone with a gun in their waistband,” he said.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said the facilities should be a safe haven that they haven’t always been in the past. “It’s been too many times that we’ve been to recreation centers that were the subject of horrific violence,” Gauthier said.

“I can remember being with Commissioner Lovell at Christy Rec Center when Kyrie Simmons was shot down while playing basketball. Kyrie was 16 years old. He died in that playground by himself after being shot,” Gauthier said. “This sort of latest incident in my district with Tiffany Fletcher was just too heartbreaking to even really swallow because Tiffany and the staff at Mill Creek Rec Center and even the volunteers just worked so hard to make that space safer for kids. And so I’m glad that we’re taking the step to ban guns from these centers.”

Cindy Bass speaks at a podium as Jamie Gauthier looks on.
Councilmember Cindy Bass speaks at the signing of an executive order from Mayor Jim Kenney banning guns from Philadelphia parks on Sept. 27, 2022, as Councilmember Jamie Gauthier looks on. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

DA Larry Krasner said the executive order will give him the ability to charge people. “This is what happens when we have guns everywhere. It is my pleasure to say the people who bring guns onto rec center property are going to have to deal with my office,” he said.

Anyone who brings a gun into a rec facility will be charged on many different levels, Krasner explained.

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“They’re going to face the usual charges for possession of firearms and charges for anything else bad that they do on those sites. But thanks to this executive order, their activity will also be treated as trespass. Because what they are doing is going past signage there, that they’re not permitted to do it and therefore they are not allowed to be on those premises,” he said.

Councilmember Cindy Bass pointed to a 2019 bill passed by City Council that also limited guns at recreation centers, “which said that guns were prohibited on park and recreation spaces.”

Andrew Richmond of the city’s law department explained the subtle difference which includes the ban of even those with a permit to carry a gun. “This is slightly different as the city is doing this as the owner of these properties,” he said.

The order could prompt a legal challenge by gun rights groups.

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