Philly lawmakers want to ban guns from city playgrounds, rec centers — but face long odds

City Council President Darrell Clarke said Wednesday he plans to introduce a bill in September to ban guns, knives, and other deadly weapons at city parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds. Violators would be fined up to $2,000 dollars, face up 90 days in prison, or both. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

City Council President Darrell Clarke said Wednesday he plans to introduce a bill in September to ban guns, knives, and other deadly weapons at city parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds. Violators would be fined up to $2,000 dollars, face up 90 days in prison, or both. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

In the wake of two shootings at Philadelphia playgrounds, city and state lawmakers are banding together to ban guns, knives, and other deadly weapons at city parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds.

City Council President Darrell Clarke said Wednesday he plans to introduce such a bill when the body reconvenes in September. Violators would be fined up to $2,000 dollars, face up 90 days in prison, or both.

A group of Philadelphia legislators in Harrisburg vow to push companion legislation to allow the city to implement the so-called safe haven measure, which state preemption laws currently prohibit.

“No one’s Second Amendment rights, or no illegal guns, should have rights over our children’s constitutional rights. All of our children have a constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell during Wednesday’s news conference at Mander Playground in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia.

In a heavily Democratic city where gun violence is a persistent problem, the City Council bill is likely to pass. The same cannot be said for the enabling legislation in the General Assembly. Republicans, who have historically opposed gun-control bills, still have a majority in both the state House and Senate.

Pennsylvania’s preemption laws prohibit municipalities from passing their own gun-control measures, as Pittsburgh tried to do this spring following a mass shooting at a synagogue.

Those odds don’t bother Clarke.

“This violence doesn’t know what party a person belongs to,” he said.

Mike Straub, spokesperson for House Majority leader Bryan Cutler, said a state companion bill would “certainly receive its due diligence,” but added that “local gun-control ordinances have not held up in state courts.”

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority leader Jake Corman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City Council passed similar legislation to ban deadly weapons from city facilities in 2013, but it was never enforced. There was no companion bill from state lawmakers.

On Father’s Day weekend last month, a shooting at Finnegan Playground in Southwest Philadelphia killed one and injured five more after a graduation party.

Roughly a month later, seven people were shot at Baker Playground in the Overbrook section of the city during a busy basketball tournament.

“These are public places. They should be safe spaces,” state Rep. Donna Bullock.

It’s not clear how the proposed legislation might have prevented these two shootings, but lawmakers said the first step to stopping future violence is to create a safe environment.

“Too many people have weapons,” said Clarke.

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