Mayor Michael Nutter and former Gov. Ed Rendell joined activists yesterday at a rally outside the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Pa.) calling for him to support a package of legislation aimed at limiting gun violence.
"There is no other type of tragedy in this country that we would allow to go on for so long," Nutter said.
"Not car accidents, not trains, not a bag of spinach on the shelf – if it was found to hurt somebody, every one of them would be taken away."
So, Nutter said, federal lawmakers' inaction in passing reforms in the wake of tragedies like Newtown, Conn. has been puzzling – some Republicans in the Senate have been threatening to filibuster the legislation's mere discussion.
He said he supports a rigorous debate but it must lead to action.
"That's what this country was started about right here in the cradle of liberty, freedom and democracy," he said. "But they didn't debate forever about whether to have a Declaration of Independence – they had a good debate and then they passed one."
Rendell said Toomey called him Monday and vowed to vote against the filibuster, but he also wants the Toomey to sign on to a bill being hammered out by Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) requiring background checks for all gun sales.
"Sen. Manchin is working hard but he needs a Republican sponsor," Rendell said. "Sen. Toomey has been talking to Sen. Manchin and I believe they are close."
Advocates are further urging Toomey to support legislation cracking down on straw firearm purchases and limiting magazine clips to 10 bullets.
"Why would anybody need a clip with more than 10 rounds in it?" Nutter said.
"You're not shooting a bear, you're not shooting an elk, you're not shooting deer and as a matter of fact, it is against Pennsylvania law to use that high-capacity weapon to shoot or hunt game. We have more regulations about what you can do on our hunting grounds than we have about what you can do on the streets of our city."
Manchin and Toomey are expected to reach an agreement about the background check legislation by the end of the day Tuesday.
The future of the remainder of the laws remain up in the air.
Movita Johnson-Harrell, who became visibly emotional during the rally, wore a t-shirt printed with a photo of her son Charles. He was fatally shot at the age of 18 in what Johnson-Harrell said was a case of mistaken identity.
His killers – Troy Thornton and Sean Jones – were recently convicted. Jones was sentenced just last Friday.
"I requested mercy for him because he seemed very remorseful and I believe he was a product of his environment," Johnson-Harrell said. "I truly believe if he didn't have access to a gun my son wouldn't have been murdered."
Neither of Johnson's killers used legally purchased firearms, nor were they licensed to carry.
Lisa Haven lost her son Darren, who was at the age of 24 shot to death in a random act of violence.
"If that person who shot him didn't have a gun because he was a felon or because there were universal background checks, maybe I wouldn't be standing here today," she said.
A former Philadelphia school teacher, Haven said several of her former students have also been gunned down.
"You don't' have to say the reasons – they're all stupid reasons," she said, adding that no motive can fully explain the act of taking a life.
"The stupidest reason being a person who shot him had a gun he shouldn't have had."