Approximately 39 percent of active, African-American voters in Philadelphia — more than 152,000 people — lack state-required photo identification needed to cast their ballot on Nov. 6, according to Tribune calculations, based on numbers provided in a report released this week.
That figure compares to about 82,000 — or about 20 percent — active, white voters who lack proper identification.
The data appears to bolster claims that the new law violates the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“It’s about impact. Does this law have a differential racial impact [forbidden in the voting rights act] and this study is a piece of hard evidence that it does,” said City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who is in charge of overseeing Philadelphia’s elections.
Numbers provided to the Tribune showed a grand total of 868,648 active voters in the city. An active voter is defined as a person who has voted within the last four years.
About 393,000 of that total were Black.
The numbers were smaller for other ethnic groups. Among active, Latino voters, a group of about 93,000 people, about 37,000 of them faced the possibility of being denied the right to vote because they lacked ID. The majority of the remaining active voters — roughly 319,000 out of 413,000 — were white.
In total, the study, released Wednesday at a press conference at Bright Hope Baptist Church, found that about 280,000 Philadelphia voters lacked proper identification.
That is approximately one in three Philadelphia voters of all backgrounds.
The report was compiled by Tamara Manik-Perlman, an analyst at Azavea, a geospatial software firm based in the city; and Tom Boyer, a computer programmer and former journalist. The two broke down the numbers provided by the City Commissioners’ Office on a precinct-by-precinct basis.
Estimates of how many Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians could be hurt by the law vary widely, but nearly everyone agrees that minorities, the elderly, the poor and students are going to be kept from the ballot box in the largest numbers.
Projections go as high as 362,000, a figure published recently in the Huffington Post. Nearly all are higher than state authorities projected in numbers released last month. At that time, the state Department of State suggested that 186,830 registered voters — about 18 percent of the population — lacked the necessary paperwork to vote.
Manik-Perlman said she set out to map the voting precincts were voters were most likely to lack a photo ID as required by the state. Her research was based on city voting files and U.S. Census data, and an examination of data in each precinct in the city.
She stressed that her figures were projections, because voters can choose whether or not to report race on their registration forms. Many do not.
“We have a sense for each ward and division,” she said. “But, we don’t actually know for each individual what the pattern is.”
The Tribune compiled those numbers into citywide totals.
On a precinct-by-precinct basis, the highest concentration of precincts where voters lacked identification fell in neighborhoods in University City, West Philadelphia and the precincts on both sides of Broad Street in North Philadelphia, small portions of Germantown, chunks of South Philadelphia west of Broad, and slices of Southwest Philadelphia down to Essington.
“For predominantly African-American neighborhoods, it looked like there was about twice as many ID problems than there were for mostly white neighborhoods,” Boyer said. “It’s a very substantial difference.”
The law, which has been challenged in a suit filed by the NAACP and the ACLU and several other groups, is under review by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who is expected to rule on it next week. Both sides have said they’d appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.
J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the state and city chapters of the NAACP said this week that the law — touted by supporters as a way to stop voter fraud — was actually a “voter suppression” tactic.
“It was based on a lie,” he said. “Gov. [Tom] Corbett is a liar; so are his Republican cronies in the state legislature. There is no voter fraud in Pennsylvania.”
Montgomery County will have to balance dollars and cents again. A few months ago, the county faced a huge issue with passing the 2012 budgets when numerous cuts were made that would cause the closing of libraries, and cut funding to the community college.
Now, the state is looking to cut additional funding. The facility for the aging and chronically ill can lose between $800,000 and $1 million. With a budget that is already tight, Montgomery County officials are trying to work together to find a solution.
“This administration is working together,” said chairman Josh Shapiro. “That is how government is supposed to work.”
Other cuts include up to $170,000 to the office of Children and Youth. The state could reduce the funding to the community college by 4.2 percent as well.
“What are the solutions to try to come up with the funding? The three of us are not going to suggest to the legislature what their alternatives should be to come up with the funding,” said Shapiro. “That is up to them. That is their responsibility. I believe Tom Corbett wants to make sure these folks are looked after. He has a responsibility to deal with the cards he has been dealt and he chooses a course of action. I believe it will negatively impact the county in some ways.”
Cuts to Child Day Care Services could be as much as 7.4 percent. Shapiro notes that he will work as hard as he can with the state to get whatever funding they can.
“We are going to work in a bipartisan way with our delegation to help them understand the scope of the problem that faces our county and it will be up to them to come up with solutions,” said Shapiro.
Working together will be key, as the other two commissioners are on board with Shapiro on getting the funding that is needed for the residents.
Officials remember what happened last time that cuts were coming the residents’ way. Hundreds flooded the Montgomery County operating building demanding their services back and sent e-mails to commissioners as well.
“The three of us are approaching this as a governmental issue,” said commissioner Bruce Castor. “Our responsibility is to administrate a number of programs that are funded by the state government. If the ability to provide those services is diminishing, the public isn’t looking at Harrisburg; they are looking at the three of us for why is it that this service is being diminished. It is our interest to see that the services to our residents are not diminished therefore the three of us will decide that a particular service is necessary to our residents and then we will figure out how to restore that.”
Castor also noted that he will make all the phone calls necessary to offices in Harrisburg to try to get funding for these services back.
“If that means that commissioner Shapiro and commissioner Richards have to call members of legislature that they know and I have to call members of legislature I know, we will do that regardless of party,” said Castor.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday proposed a hold-the-line budget of $27.1 billion, with no tax increases, deep cuts to higher education assistance and a range of cost-saving measures in services for the poor, elderly and disabled.
Corbett's proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1 comes as his administration grapples with lackluster tax collections and higher costs for debt, health care and pensions. Cuts would be widespread across state agencies.
In his address to lawmakers, Corbett called his budget "lean and demanding."
"It is a budget that proposes more in the way of reforms by continuing to change the culture of government from one of entitlement to one of enterprise," he added. "These tough decisions will lay the groundwork for the prosperity of tomorrow."
Dozens of demonstrators wearing black shirts that read "Gov. Corbett, Whose side are you on? Stand with the 99 percent" roamed through the Capitol during Corbett's speech.
Perhaps the most glaring cuts are a proposed reduction of about $230 million, or 25 percent, for the State System of Higher Education, Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh and Temple University, a year after cutting the schools by almost 20 percent. Community colleges would see a 4 percent cut and grants through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency would see a 6 percent cut.
Public schools, which had to absorb about $860 million in spending cuts this year, would see their basic subsidies rise about $45 million to $5.4 billion, but would lose $100 million in grants that helped fund full-day kindergarten and other programs. In his proposal, Corbett would fold the public school aid with subsidies for transportation and other costs into a proposed new block grant that would give school boards more control over how the money is spent.
He also would institute hundreds of millions of dollars in cost-saving measures to offset a rising tab for services for the poor, elderly and disabled and keep the Department of Public Welfare budget roughly level at $10.5 billion.
Among them is a plan to save $319 million by eliminating cash payments for about 60,000 participants in the General Assistance program for people who do not qualify for federally funded welfare. It also would impose new eligibility rules, including minimum work requirements, for about 30,000 recipients who receive Medicaid benefits, administration officials said.
Corbett said his aim was to "right-size" the state welfare system. He said his proposal would "give incentives to those who are able to transition from the welfare line to the employment line while it gives real relief to our poor."
For businesses, Corbett would continue the phase-out of an asset tax that businesses pay, reducing expected collections by about $250 million next year.
The Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature this year enacted a $27.1 billion budget that reduced spending by about 3 percent. However, tax collections are lagging and Corbett's budget chief, Charles Zogby, said the current budget is expected to end in June with a $719 million shortfall.
While revenue is expected to increase in 2012-13 by more than $1 billion, much of it will be consumed by fixed increases in pension and debt costs.
Corbett's budget did not address the growing problem of the state's deteriorating highways and bridges, but he promised to work on a solution in the months ahead. -- (AP)
The School District of Philadelphia is not the only the district facing a budget crisis.
School districts throughout the state are forced to cut back because of the recession, rising costs and in large part due to Governor Tom Corbett’s $27 billion-plus budget plan and its proposed reductions to public education.
In Upper Darby, the school district is looking at scaling back its curriculum in the elementary and middle schools and significantly reducing staff to save $4 million.
Parents have expressed outrage over the possibility of the elimination of art, music, library and gym.
In the state capital in Harrisburg the budget crisis is even more severe.
The Harrisburg school district is looking at eliminating kindergarten and all sports programs, bands, clubs and arts program.
Class sizes would go up to 30 students per class in the elementary grades and 35 students per class in high school.
During a meeting with the Journal Register News Company editors and reporters in Norristown last week, Gov. Corbett shifted the blame to local school districts.
He said taxpayers in every district across the state need to look at how the money is being managed by local officials.
It is disingenuous to blame the school district’s money problems on mismanagement by local officials when the state has drastically cut funding to local school districts.
Meanwhile the governor is seeking tax breaks for a multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery planned by Shell Oil Co. in western Pennsylvania that would essentially give Shell $1.7 billion in tax breaks over the next 25 years.
Gov. Corbett signed a pledge not to raises taxes when he campaigned for governor. He is more intent in keeping that pledge than making a commitment to ensure that local school districts receive adequate education funding from the state.
Through a partnership with the city and state, financial services company Janney Montgomery Scott LLC will retain its headquarters in Center City.
Gov. Tom Corbett and Mayor Michael Nutter joined Janney President and CEO Timothy C. Scheve in unveiling plans for a new 146,000 square-foot headquarters to be located at 1717 Arch St., Three Logan Square.
The company, which employs 550 in Philadelphia, is slated to move to its new headquarters next summer.
“Our new headquarters is going to provide the team with a vibrant and flexible workspace that is going to improve how we’re able to interact with each other, our clients and the community at large. It’s going to position us for sustained, long-term profitable growth,” Scheve said during a press conference Wednesday at Janney’s 1801 Market St. offices.
“Our new Philadelphia headquarters is going to enable us to continue to attract talented financial services professionals to relocate to Philadelphia.”
Janney plans to create 100 new jobs in Philadelphia during the next three to five years. The new jobs will be in a range of professional financial service positions, including traders, financial analysts and investment bankers and associated administrative staff.
Corbett and Nutter thanked Janney for deciding to maintain operations in Philadelphia. Delaware was one top competitor for Janney’s business.
“When this was presented to the governor’s office initially, it was important to the office that we keep you here in Philadelphia,” Corbett told Janney officials.
“The role of governor, in addition to governing and making decisions, is to do one thing — create jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“Today is a win. It’s a win for you. It’s a win for Philadelphia. It’s a win for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he added.
“We could not be more excited especially considering the overall economic climate all across America. It’s been a tough, tough time but you’re demonstrating that this is a smart city and I would say it was a smart choice,” said Nutter.
“Janney Montgomery Scott has made a smart choice by deciding to expand its headquarters here in Center City,” he said.
“Janney is an exceptional corporate citizen in our community; I am convinced that the firm will continue to grow, adding jobs and keeping more professionals living and working in our region.”
Despite the challenging economy, Janney has maintained strong financials and created jobs in recent years. According to Scheve, Janney’s Philadelphia workforce has grown by more than 130 people within the last five years and the company has increased its Philadelphia taxable wages by $23 million. The firm employs almost 1,000 statewide.
Established in 1832, Janney provides comprehensive financial advice and services to individual, corporate and institutional investors.
Advocates doubt schools will get emergency funds
Candlelight vigils, mass student walkouts, an entire staff working pro bono, and even the prodding from one of Philadelphia’s top grassroots organizations may not be enough to save the Chester Upland School District.
Indeed, all hope is about lost, as Danyel Jennings, who organized a petition and signature-signing protest on Change.org, and has two children enrolled in the district, seems to now recognize.
“I don’t think [the state] is going to release any money,” a somber Jennings said, against the din of a massive student walkout Friday morning. “The teachers said they will work as long as they can, but it now depends on the individual teacher — some may stay for a few days, or perhaps a week or so.
“Many teachers are complaining that they aren’t being told the whole story.”
Jennings was speaking as a large crowd of students marched on the Chester Upland School District’s headquarters.
Thom Persings, a spokesman for the Chester Upland School District, is more optimistic about the chances of the state releasing emergency funds.
“The school district has filed a federal suit to get the state to release the funds, and that is proceeding very rapidly,” Persings said. “I am very optimistic that we’ll receive the funding. I just cannot believe the state would just abandon these students, and let poor people, minority people, suffer.”
The crisis facing the Chester Upland School District has raised the awareness and support of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, as Jennifer R. Clarke, the center’s executive director, sent a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, urging him to reconsider his position.
In that letter, obtained by The Tribune, Clarke stated, “some 3,700 students are threatened with being deprived of the education which they need — and to which they are clearly entitled.
“The state constitution and laws place the ultimate responsibility for providing a thorough and efficient system of public education upon the state … the district is an instrumentality of the state to provide that education,” the letter read in part. “If, for whatever reason, it is unable to provide the 180 days of school required by law, this is a failure of the system set up by the state.”
Their efforts could be all for naught, given comments by Pennsylvania Board of Education spokesman Tim Eller, who recently noted the district’s terrible fiscal management history — and the fact the state has had to bail out the district at least twice before. Eller and Corbett seem to indicate an unwillingness to bail it out for a third time.
Between the Eagles beating the stuffing out of the Cowboys, and increasingly lurid stories of Herman Cain’s inability to keep his hands to himself — not to mention Philadelphia’s municipal election next week — you may not have noticed a significant piece of legislation that sailed through Pennsylvania’s House and Senate this week.
The bill specifically prohibits Pennsylvania drivers from sending, receiving, or reading text messages while behind the wheel. Violators would be subject to a $50 fine, but the real kicker is that driving while texting would become a primary offense. That means that you don’t have to be guilty of any other violations like speeding or reckless driving to be pulled over for tapping away at your smartphone.
Gov. Corbett, who has repeatedly railed against the evils of texting while driving, is expected to sign the measure into law quickly. The law would then become effective four months from the governor’s signing, to give officials a chance to drum it into motorist’s heads that you can’t do it. Or more accurately, that you may not get away with it.
The few legislators who spoke against the bill were summarily ignored, but their argument went something like this: Since we already have rules about distracted driving, most of which are easy to ignore and hard to enforce, adding another toothless law is a waste of time, and further evidence we live in a “nanny state.”
While I tend to disagree about the whole nanny state argument, I think they have a valid point about the proposed new law’s potential for effectiveness.
Yes, I have read the statistics on distracted drivers and the damage they do to themselves and others. Like most drivers, I know from experience that a lack of concentration — even for a few seconds — could mean disaster. I’m not advocating texting while driving — I just doubt that a law can stop it, or even slow it down.
We’ve seen it a thousand times for a thousand different worthwhile reasons, and the sad truth is this: No matter how pure our motives, we cannot legislate stupidity, for the simple reason that stupid people are above the law.
Case in point: motorcycle helmet laws. It took years and years to get those laws on the books in some states. In the years since, some states refuse to enact them, some refuse to enforce them, and some have even repealed them.
No one argues that helmets are a bad idea, or that they haven’t saved thousands of lives, which they clearly have. It’s just that people don’t like being told what to do. This is especially true of stupid people, who so resent being told what to do that they will act against their own self-interest — just to be contrary.
Those of us around in the 1960s remember the government’s massive public relations campaign surrounding seat belts. “Buckle up for safety” became as well-known a commercial catch phrase as “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”
And despite the millions in taxpayer dollars spent on television and billboard advertising, and despite the horrific photos of accident scenes they showed to us impressionable schoolchildren, I knew of several adults who flatly refused to wear a seat belt. Oh, there was every excuse — from not liking the feeling of confinement to potentially wrinkled clothes — but the bottom line was that certain folks were just not going to comply, no matter what.
It took nearly thirty years and a whole courthouse full of new laws to get people to buckle up routinely. In the end, I think it was that annoying seat belt alarm on new cars that closed the deal, rather than folks’ concern for the law, or even for their own safety.
The other part of the texting while driving law that bothers me is the language, particularly the phrase “sending, receiving, or reading.” How can a motorist be held responsible for simply receiving a text message? You can’t help who sends you a text or when, you just don’t have to open it. But opening, or reading, the message is listed separately from receiving, under the law. Sounds like a built-in loophole for some smart lawyer to squeeze into.
Either way, you can stand on any street corner, and count the number of drivers who chat away merrily on handheld phones, or engage in a flurry of texting at red lights and stop signs. I can’t see those folks voluntarily changing their habits at this point.
Unless smartphone manufacturers can come up with a really annoying alarm.
In the perverse world of politics repugnant practices are SOP — standard operating procedure.
The repugnant procedure used by the administration of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to fund implementation of its Voter ID law is particularly perverse.
The Corbett administration seized millions in federal funds — earmarked in part to increase voter turnout — to implement its ID law that critics rightly exposed as a naked attempt to DECREASE voter turnout.
Fortunately, albeit reluctantly, Pennsylvania state courts road-blocked Corbett and his Republican legislative confederates from their fast-lane drive to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters by suspending that controversial Voter ID law for today’s presidential election.
Before court’s put the red-light on this Republican voter suppression scheme to turn Pennsylvania into a Red-State via rigging a victory by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney the Corbett administration began funding its Voter ID law implementation with federal monies from the Help America Vote Act.
Federal legislators enacted the HAVA in 2002 to minimize a repeat of the problem-plagued 2000 presidential election. The HAVA garnered bipartisan support unlike Corbett’s GOP-only-support ID card scheme.
That 2000 election, where Republican schemes stealing voting rights from minorities existed in many states, produced the elevation of George W. Bush into the Oval Office following a perverse electoral intervention on Bush’s behalf by the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Purposes for passing the HAVA included increasing voter education as well as increasing voter turnout.
The Corbett administration twisted the spirit of HAVA funding through using that funding to ‘educate’ Pennsylvania voters stripped of voting rights on Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law that had the operational impact of lowering not increasing voter turnout.
Studies by independent researchers and [grudging] admissions from various Corbett administration officials during court testimony showed that Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law would bar hundreds of thousands from voting, especially the elderly, low-income, racial minorities and college students…all groups perceived by Republicans as favoring Democrats.
The Corbett administration used $5-million in HAVA funding, according to a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, the state government entity that oversees Pa elections.
That HAVA money paid for buying media ads about Voter ID, hiring firms to make the media ads, hiring a media buyer, conducting meetings in communities around the state on the ID law and other items.
“That $5-million covered our implementation,” a Department of State spokesman said. “The money was spent for voter education.”
Spending federal monies intended to improve voting access by the disabled and improve poll watcher training to implement a law allegedly aimed at preventing a voter fraud that does not exist is perverse and repugnant.
Oh, by the way, a minority owned firm received only one contract awarded by the Corbett administration for Voter ID implementation, the spokesman said. That Harrisburg-based firm did some of the community outreach where state officials sought to ‘educate’ voters on the new ID law.
The only voter fraud that Voter ID stops is in-person fraud.
During a court hearing on the ID law this past summer Corbett administration officials admitted “there have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud.”
One study examining incidents of in-person voter fraud around that nation found there were 39 times as many lightening strikes deaths from 2000-2007 than instances of the type of fraud addressed by Voter ID.
So why have a new rights-stripping law to address a problem that doesn’t exist?
In June 2012 a top Republican leader in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives proudly boasted during a Republican Party meeting that the true intention behind the Voter ID law his party rammed through the legislature months earlier was helping Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania.
Corbett administration officials, including the Secretary of State, offered wildly varying estimates on how many Pennsylvania voters didn’t have the type of ID required by the new law ranging from the Secretary’s claim of much fewer than 100,000 to another official’s count of nearly 800,000.
When Pennsylvania courts blocked Nov.6 implementation of this ID law state agencies had issued only 14,000 new IDs.
Yes, hundreds of thousands that had voted, including tens of thousands who voted for many decades, would have found themselves without their most fundamental right in a democracy — the right to vote…loosing that precious right due solely to repugnant Republican Party scheming.
U.S. political conservatives and their corporate backers are implementing a strategy to “permanently cripple representative democracy by stopping Americans from voting,” charged Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of an assassinated U.S. Attorney General and nephew of assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in an article published last week.
Corbett’s administration did issue those 14,000 Voter ID cards free of charge, waiving the regular $13.50 fee that Department of State spokesman noted.
Since only 14,000 received new and free IDs, Pennsylvania did not use the entire $1-million Corbett stuffed into his otherwise program slashing austerity budget.
Don’t Worry — Be Happy.
The Corbett administration did continue with media ads to ‘educate’ voters that deceptively left the inference that voters needed ID to vote.
The Republican aligned Commonwealth Court judge that approved the law before blocking it upon orders from the state Supreme Court refused to block the Corbett administration ads.
Schemes like Corbett’s Voter ID law give substance to the phrase: poli-tricks.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
State lawmakers should reject a bill that would lead to an increase in state takeovers of Pennsylvania school districts veering toward financial collapse.
The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee recently approved a bill along partisan lines that would replace the case-by-case approach used in the past for taking over struggling districts.
The bill would suspend the right to strike while a district is insolvent and have the state secretary of education appoint chief recovery officers to oversee local school districts. The chief recovery officer would be given broad powers to push districts toward such controversial measures as converting schools to charters, handing them over to education management organizations and cutting teacher’s pay.
The proposal would immediately affect four school districts: Duquesne, Harrisburg, York and Chester Upland, which sued the state in federal court in January after it threatened to shut down due to lack of money.
The bill has the support of Gov. Tom Corbett and most Republicans in the Senate where it is expected to pass. It is not known if House Republicans will also support the bill.
The proposal is a bad idea.
The bill appears to a thinly disguised attempt to bust teacher’s unions and hand schools to private operators in districts already struggling because of deep cuts in state aid and shrinking local tax bases.
Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said that the only place the state will find savings to improve district’s finances is by forcing staff to take pay cuts — ensuring teacher turnover and making it more difficult to attract talented teachers to work for lower pay in a challenging district.
“We’re completely destroying the standards of the profession, and we’re completely destroying the opportunity of our kids to have a quality education by doing that,” Leach said.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing a bill that is similar to the 2001 state takeover of Philadelphia public schools which has done little to eradicate the district’s financial, academic and violence problems.
Bill would impose five-year prison sentence
The Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday that imposes a mandatory five-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of straw purchasing firearms for previously convicted felons.
The measure, known as HB 898, now heads to Governor Tom Corbett to sign into law. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and State Senator Larry Farnese called the bill’s passing a victory for public safety. The bill passed with no amending from the NRA.
“I want to thank Representative Marcy Toepel for sponsoring this bill, Senators Larry Farnese, John Rafferty, Stewart Greenleaf, Bob Mensch, Dailyn Leach, Anthony Williams and Representatives Ron Marsico and Tom Caltagirone for their leadership in helping to get this law passed,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “While illegal gun crime is an epidemic in Philadelphia, this new law is important for the entire Commonwealth. Thanks to this legislation, people who buy more than one gun for a felon will go to jail for a long time, which will make all of Pennsylvania safer.”
A straw purchaser is a person with no criminal record who buys guns for previously convicted felons. Conceivably, a straw purchaser could go into a gun shop, buy any number of handguns or rifles and then turn them over to whomever they’re fronting for. Under current Pennsylvania law, the straw purchaser would face little or no jail time - but all of that is about to change. Once Governor Corbett signs the bill into law, a straw purchaser faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for buying and illegally transferring ownership of firearms.
“Advocates from across Pennsylvania have been fighting for years to strengthen our penalties for illegal straw gun purchases, and today we sent a bill to the Governor’s desk that does just that,” Farnese said. “This is good legislation, and I pledge to continue to do all I can to make our streets and communities free from gun violence and illegal guns.”
Law enforcement officials have said that the level of gun violence in Philadelphia is a crisis that has reached epidemic proportions. According to statistics provided by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and Philadelphia Police Department, there were 324 murders in the city in 2011. Firearms were used in 265 murders in 2011, or in 82 percent of the cases. For that same year, there were 1,421 people who were shot and police recovered well over 3,000 illegal firearms. Research shows that 80 percent of the firearms used in criminal acts had a point of origin with a straw purchaser, as in the case of recently slain police officer Brad Fox.
“The need for this bill was most recently and tragically demonstrated by the death of Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri-Ferman. “He was killed while investigating a car crash on September 13, 2012 with a gun that was obtained from a repeat straw purchaser. His loss is felt everyday in Montgomery County, but the passage of this law is a great tribute to his memory.”
According to investigators, in 2012 alleged straw purchaser Michael Henry bought nine handguns over a four month period and illegally transferred them to previously convicted felon Andrew Thomas. Under Pennsylvania law such an individual is not allowed to purchase or even possess a firearm. On Sept. 13, Thomas allegedly used one of Henry’s straw-purchased weapons to shoot Officer Fox to death before using the .9mm Beretta on himself. Henry was subsequently arrested and charged with nine felonies for illegally buying firearms for another person.
“Jose Cruz, Christian Hall and Jason Gonzalez may not be household names in Philadelphia,” Williams said, “But collectively they are responsible for putting 16 guns onto our streets. They are all straw purchasers, and while they may not have pulled the trigger or committed crimes of violence themselves, they are just as responsible as the criminals breaking the law with those guns. Our mission to clean up the streets of Philadelphia and take them back from thugs and criminals just got a little bit easier with this legislation.”