Philadelphia, like many major cities across the nation, is experiencing a spike in violent crime. City officials apparently are under the impression that the problem is people who just have guns lying around — and they’re asking them to turn them in.
What could possibly go right here?
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly has seen 261 homicides this year, a 29 percent year-on-year increase and the most during that period since 1991, when 275 were recorded.
So turn in those guns, Mr. and Mrs. Philadelphia. I mean, if they’re just lying around.
Philadelphia is seeing an increase in shootings…to combat the senseless gun violence, city council, Philadelphia Police and community groups organized a home gun check…urging residents to safely turn in firearms lying around their homes before they get into the wrong hands. pic.twitter.com/00QUqFOHrb
— Katie Katro (@KatieKatro6abc) August 15, 2020
According to KYW-TV, this is all part of what Philadelphia officials call the “Home Gun-Check Campaign.” If you have a gun that you’re not using or you don’t want, you drop it off to officials.
“Get those guns, run that room, see what’s in there. Find out what’s being hidden in your house. Take it out and turn it in,” Democratic City Council member Cindy Bass said.
People have guns being hidden in their houses in Philadelphia?
I’m going to be charitable to Councilmember Bass and assume she was talking about people who have relatives who are hiding illegal firearms from them. Even with that, I would assume you’d probably be in a bit more trouble if you just decided to up and turn those guns in.
Two churches, one on the north side of the city and one on the south, served as the drop-off zones for the weekend program.
“It must be stressed that community members who submit firearms will not be asked to produce identification. In addition, the submission of a firearm will not trigger an investigation of the person who relinquished it,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said, according to The Inquirer.
This wasn’t a gun buyback program, mind you — just a gun disposal program.
It’s not that there weren’t takers. Andre Rivers told WPVI-TV he had several guns he wasn’t using, so he turned them in.
“I didn’t want them laying around the house,” Rivers said.
“The process is fine, you just give it to them, the police thanked you, the staff here thanked you, and that was it,” he added.
“I didn’t have to sign or do anything, I just had to turn them in. It don’t get no easier than that.”
A total of 43 guns were collected. And I can tell you with near-certainty that if the “Home Gun-Check Campaign” had been conducted one, two or three weeks earlier, it wouldn’t have prevented any of the 12 shootings Philadelphia saw Friday night into Saturday.
Yes, some of the illegal firearms in circulation come from thefts, but not a significant percentage of them.
A 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics report analyzing 2016 data regarding prisoners who had a gun in their possession when they committed a crime found that only 6 percent of them had stolen it. Almost half (43 percent) had bought it off the street.
But could those have been stolen? A 2018 paper by Philip J. Cook published in the Journal of Urban Health notes that “an analysis of original data from Chicago demonstrates that less than 3% of crime guns recovered by the police have been reported stolen to the Chicago Police Department.”
It’s highly unlikely that people who legally keep guns but don’t use them are going to be drivers of crime; they’d be better off getting the firearm’s worth by selling them or transferring them through a gun shop than merely dropping them off with police as part of the ungainly named “Home Gun-Check Campaign.”
Meanwhile, police would be far better off using their messaging resources elsewhere.
This was the big media offensive from the Philadelphia Police Department and city government this weekend, at least pertaining to crime. It did nothing.
They’ve asked semi-politely. When it doesn’t work, what’s the next step? One assumes, unfortunately, it might be a bit less polite.
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