City Council is mulling a proposal by Council President Darrell Clarke that would impose criminal sanctions on people who leave guns out in homes within reach of children.
The bill, which is awaiting scheduling of a hearing, would amend an existing law that requires the safe storage of firearms in households with children at all times. In 47 states, including the Keystone State, adults face no legal consequence for leaving loaded, unlocked guns within a child’s reach. In general, Pennsylvania does not allow muncipalities to enforce gun ordinances that are stricter than state laws.
But after Maurice “Stephon” Phillips, of North Philly, was charged just last week with killing his 4-year old daughter while handling his gun in his home, Clarke said enough was enough. He introduced the legislation last Thursday.
“Guns and kids do not mix, and adults have a responsibility to make sure guns are safely stored out of the reach of children,” he said.
“There have been way too many tragedies involving children accessing guns and accidentally shooting other children, adults or themselves. The city of Philadelphia cannot outlaw stupidity, but we can do more to educate the public about safe firearm storage and send the message that senseless negligence involving children will not be tolerated.”
Clarke’s bill would require that all firearms licensed to Philadelphia residents be equipped with a trigger-locking device, and firearms kept in a home with at least one person under the age of 18 be kept unloaded and stored in a locked container. He also wants ammunition kept in the home to be stored in a separate, locked container.
Questions remain, however, as to how he would enforce these measures.
Pennsylvania is a preemptive state, meaning only the General Assembly can pass gun laws regulating gun ownership. Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the NRA, said the city could be hard-pressed in telling gun owners to keep trigger locks on their guns.
“The death of any child is heartbreaking and one too many,” he said.
“No organization in the world has done more to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms than the National Rifle Association. Thanks to initiatives like NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, the accidental firearm death rate among children has dropped 85% from 267 deaths to 50 in the last 20 years, and we will not stop until that number reaches zero. The NRA supports continued education and training, not one-size-fits-all government mandates.”
Attempts to get a response from Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun-violence prevention group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, were unsuccessful Wednesday.