Downtown, we pride ourselves on supporting our police. People post slogans on their Facebook pages. Place signs in their windows. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL POLICE. After six cops were shot in Tioga, prayers were posted all over Facebook. There’s no place that supports cops like my old neighborhood in South Philly. My dad was a policeman. I’ve often written in this space about his heroics. If he were alive today, I’m certain he’d be pleased by the expressions of support. But he’d realize that something is missing from that support.
Not one of the Facebook entries that I’ve seen mentions anything about trying to take guns out of the hands of criminals. Not one. In fact, I suspect that many of the folks who profess their support for cops don’t support any form of gun control. I can’t back up that belief with statistics. It’s something that I sense from talking to people — from reading their posts, and hearing the political candidates they support. I keep wondering how someone can support the police…pray that no police officer is wounded — or worse — and yet adamantly oppose even the mildest gun control measures, such as closing the gun registration loophole or banning large magazine weapons. It makes no sense. You can pray all you want for your husbands, brothers, sons, daughters and friends who are cops, but we continue to send them out into the streets against criminals who are sometimes more heavily armed.
As of this writing, the Daily News is reporting that investigators are still removing bullet fragments from cars and houses from that recent shootout on North 15th Street. Reports indicate that the alleged shooter, Maurice Hill, pumped over 100 rounds from an AR-15 at police officers. It’s a miracle that none of the six cops injured in the gunfire were seriously injured or worse. Police may not be so lucky the next time. It’s disappointing to me that amidst the reaction by the so-called defenders of our police, there is no loud outcry for changes in our gun laws. Why not?
You want to post calls for prayers? Fine. You want to gripe that this guy Hill shouldn’t have been out on the street in the first place? OK. But you also have to explain to me why you don’t see a connection between too many guns on the street and too many cops getting shot. This is not to downplay the number of civilian casualties. Not at all. But this column is focused on police casualties because support for gun control would make your support for law enforcement officers more meaningful.
I get that some law-abiding folks feel the need to have a firearm in their homes. After my father retired from the police force, he applied for and received a permit that allowed him to continue keeping his gun for protection. He followed all the rules. He kept proficient on the firing range. Never took the rights of gun ownership for granted. But some of you, who are also responsible gun owners, have bought into the fear that any form of gun control is the first step to taking your rights away. C’mon! That’s hogwash put out by the National Rifle Association. The majority of their own members know it’s a lie, according to polls.
The argument goes that no gun laws stop criminals from getting weapons. That only lawful gun owners obey the law and they’re not the ones committing crimes. But many crimes are committed because sometimes guns fall into the wrong hands. Gun crimes are often not committed by the original purchasers of the weapon. Besides, there is no logic to allowing large-capacity, military-style weapons in civilian hands. Maurice Hill was able to fire off more than 100 rounds because he had a weapon designed to do only one thing: kill people — faster. And those people he was firing at were the cops we claim to fully support.
Most people — especially those who claim that gun control doesn’t work — don’t realize that the City of Philadelphia is not free to enact the gun laws it thinks it needs. We can’t enact any laws that are more restrictive than ones already in place in Pennsylvania. State laws take precedence. In effect, Philadelphians are held hostage by the rural elements in our state, where the environment is quite different from that in the city. We sit on a powder keg like any big city. Furthermore, even if Pennsylvania were a more progressive state when it came to gun controls, the effectiveness of its laws would be undermined by bordering states with looser gun laws. For instance, it does California little good, for instance, to have tight gun control when the bordering states — Arizona and Nevada — are awash in weapons. That’s why reasonable national gun laws are needed.
Historically, the majority of police chiefs across the country have supported gun control. Their voices need to be heard even louder now. Nobody loves their cops more than the people in South Philly. But we’ve got to draw the connection between supporting cops and protecting them. One of the best ways to protect cops is to make the mean streets a lot less mean. And that means fewer guns in the hands of the wrong people. We can disagree about a lot of things, but there should be no disagreement on this: The time has come for action.
Here’s an idea for a window poster — SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL POLICE. SUPPORT REASONABLE GUN CONTROL.
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