Philadelphia is a city all too familiar with gun violence. But that expertise may prove invaluable to those in other parts of the country still reeling from last week's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn, as Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced Wednesday that he will join a Washington commission tasked with recommending reforms in the tragedy's wake.
"Given his expertise as one of the preeminent law enforcement managers and thinkers in this country, we're very pleased that he'll have an opportunity to be a part of that group," Mayor Michael Nutter's press secretary Mark McDonald said.
Ramsey, who came to Philadelphia in 2008 after serving as chief of Washington, D.C. for eight years, heads up both the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum. He was tapped by Vice President Joe Biden to help draft a set of proposals, which President Barack Obama said are due to him in January.
"I think he, like other police commissioners and chiefs, wants good tools for his officers and prosecutors he partners with to keep [guns] off the streets," said Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA, who called Ramsey a "valuable partner" in the initiative. "I think they have a unique perspective of the damage and danger guns can do."
Ramsey on Tuesday called the Newtown shooting a "complicated" case. "You've got mental health issues involved, you've got gun control issues involved, you've got a variety of things that need to be looked at if we're going to do all we can to keep our communities safe," he said.
"Even doing that, there always can be that situation that someone whose mind is made up – this is what they're going to do – could carry out a deed like was carried out in Newtown," he continued. "But I think that's no excuse for us to not take the necessary steps we need to take as a society to do everything we possibly can."
More local gun legislation
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D–Phila) is the latest lawmaker to announce a package of gun control legislation. “Last week’s massacre, and the similarly horrible tragedies that have occurred over the last few years, have been happening more and more frequently in the United States and they need to stop," he said in a statement. His planned reforms include:
– A bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
– A bill closing the "Florida loophole," under which those who have been denied gun permits in Pennsylvania can legally obtain one through Florida, where requirements are more lax.
– Legislation setting a mandatory minimum sentence for carrying illegal firearms and temporarily barring violent felons from purchasing or possessing firearms.
– A correction of sentencing differences between adult and juvenile offenders to reduce the number of straw purchasers.