CORBETT, FUMO CREATE $5 MILLION PHILADELPHIA GUN TASK FORCE
PHILADELPHIA, July 6, 2006 -- State Attorney General Tom Corbett will establish a new task force dedicated solely to attacking illegal guns in Philadelphia, sustained by $5 million in state funding obtained by Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia).
The new line-item appropriation under the Office of Attorney General was included in the fiscal year 2006-07 budget that was enacted five days ago in Harrisburg.
“Today’s illegal gun sale is tomorrow’s murder,” said Fumo, who helps to construct the state budget as the chairman of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee. “This is something we can do effectively to attack the problem and achieve results right now.”
“We look forward to working hand-in-hand with District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the Philadelphia Police Department in developing a task force to take illegal guns off the streets of Philadelphia," said Corbett.
The purpose of the appropriation is to create a well funded law enforcement group that will focus exclusively on illegal gun possession, sales and trafficking in an effort to prevent firearms from reaching criminal circles. The unit will be under the direction of the Attorney General, and will work in cooperation with District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the City of Philadelphia Police Department.
“I am grateful for the bipartisan participation of our Legislature,” Abraham said. “We are favorably disposed to forming a strategic alliance with the Attorney General’s Office, which will focus efforts at preventing straw purchases of guns which find their way to Philadelphia.”
“If we make a concentrated effort to disrupt the commerce of illegal guns, and send a message to illegal dealers on the street that they are now at serious risk, we can prevent a large percentage of guns from getting into criminal hands,” Fumo said.
Reacting to the surge of gun deaths in Philadelphia over recent months, Fumo approached Corbett with the idea of the task force, and they discussed it with Abraham. While Fumo lined up the solid support of other Senate leaders and Philadelphia’s state Senate delegation, Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), the Democratic Appropriations Chairman in the House of Representatives, pushed for the funding in the House. The new line item wound up with broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and the Rendell Administration signed off on the funding.
"I firmly believe that we cannot address the problems of crime and violence without getting illegal handguns off the street. Targeted law enforcement efforts combined with social, education and economic programs that already exist send a message about how committed we are to making Philadelphia neighborhoods safe and secure," said Evans.
Fumo also obtained the support of the National Rifle Association for this law-enforcement approach to gun control.
“Gun measures are very difficult to get through the Pennsylvania Legislature,” said Fumo, a 28-year veteran of the state Senate. “Meanwhile, too many innocent people continue to die on the streets of Philadelphia at the hands of criminals who are not supposed to have those guns in their possession. The debate over new legislation will probably go on for a long time in Harrisburg, but we know we can make an impact on the problem by giving substantial financial resources to skilled law enforcement authorities.”
In 2005, there were 380 people murdered in Philadelphia, the highest total in seven years. In the first five months of this year, 149 people were murdered. A large majority of the killings were committed with guns.
Other than the line item appropriation, creation of the task force did not require additional state legislation.
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