The city was lucky to avert a disaster last week in the seven-hour standoff that saw six officers wounded, but ended with no one dead and no life-threatening injuries despite the gunman firing over 100 rounds.
The officers who were struck by gunfire were released from hospitals last Wednesday.
Although it could have been far worse, the incident also should have never happened.
Why was a man with a long criminal history armed with a gun he legally purchased?
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the gunman who barricaded himself in a rowhouse in the Tioga section and exchanged gunfire with police for hours had a military-style AR-15 and a handgun.
The suspect, Maurice Hill, has a criminal history that should have prevented him from legally owning the weapons he used to wound Philadelphia police officers.
Authorities say the 36-year-old suspect had at least a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun when he opened fire on officers serving a drug warrant. He had multiple arrests in Philadelphia and Delaware County between 2001 and 2012, according to online records.
He has convictions for an array of crimes that include assault, perjury, fleeing and eluding, escape and weapons offenses.
Hill served two stints in state prisons — three, counting a return for a probation violation. He was also hit with a 55-month federal prison term over a pair of convictions for being a felon in possession of firearms.
Pennsylvania prison officials said Hill served about 2½ years on drug dealing charges and was paroled in 2006, and then did more than a year for aggravated assault before being released in 2013.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Hill’s arrest history also includes burglary, resisting arrest, taunting a police animal and reckless endangerment, although he cautioned not all resulted in convictions.
“I think what it says is that the system had multiple contacts with this man, and the system ... did things that obviously did not stop this incident,” Krasner said.
Authorities are trying to determine whether there is an outstanding warrant pending against Hill, based on a docket reference to a March 2018 probation violation, said Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain.
“He’s an individual who spent most of his adult life sort of bouncing in and out of the criminal justice system,” McSwain said.
Ross said officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get [away] from a barrage of bullets.”
It “could have been far worse,” Ross said Thursday outside the Philadelphia Police Department. “This was a very dynamic situation, one that I hope we never see again.”
Hill came out of the home after police used tear gas.
While the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, captured the national headlines, we should not ignore the violence taking place on a daily basis in our cities, including Philadelphia.
State and local politicians are right to call for new gun control measures.
In response to last week’s shooting in the city, Gov. Tom Wolf directed state police and other agencies under his control last Friday to focus greater efforts on addressing gun violence.
The governor’s office says more than 1,600 people died of gunshot wounds in Pennsylvania in 2017.
Wolf announced on Friday that he was setting up a new Special Council on Gun Violence and gave it six months to recommend how to reduce mass shootings, domestic violence, suicides and accidental shootings. He also established the Office of Gun Violence Prevention at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and a violence prevention division within the Health Department.
The governor should be commended for the new executive order. But more should be done on the state and federal levels.
Since this is a national problem, Congress should pass new common sense gun control laws that include the U.S. Senate voting on a background check bill and measure to ban assault weapons.
Mayor Jim Kenney is right to call on state and federal lawmakers to “step up or step aside” and let cities deal with the problem themselves if they fail to pass tougher gun control legislation.