Philadelphia has more shootings than NYC and LA but a fraction of their populations – Why this City’s latest executive order is just a trespassing ordinance and not a gun violence law.
How bad is it in Philadelphia?
Gun violence is at an all time high in the city of Philadelphia and more than 1,400 people have been shot this year alone in that city. This is a higher number then New York and Los Angeles, which have much larger populations (New York – 8.3 million; Los Angeles – almost 4 million). Philadelphia has less than half the population of Los Angeles and less than a quarter of the population of New York City, yet a higher rate of gun violence!
There have been over 300 homicides this year alone in the city (322). Violence has erupted in all sections of the city and specifically South and North Philadelphia. Residents are leaving the city in record number due to this high crime rate, low quality education options and overall quality of life. There are also a lot more guns in the city as over 52,000 permits to carry were issued in 2021 as compared to only 7,400 in 2020.
Executive Order – 4-22-Management and Operational Policy Prohibiting Firearms and other Deadly Weapons at City Recreational Facilities
Recently, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an Executive Order (4-22-Management and Operational Policy Prohibiting Firearms and other Deadly Weapons at City Recreational Facilities) banning deadly weapons from city recreational centers. While many may believe that this is some type of gun legislation as the name implies, the Mayor does not have the authority to sign any bills into law, unlike the Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf.
This Executive Order is simply putting persons on notice that they cannot enter city facilities with a gun. If a person doesn’t comply with this Order, they are not violating Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA offenses). Pennsylvania has various laws aimed at gun/firearm regulation along with laws prohibiting the possession and/or use of firearms without a permit (6106) or by prohibited persons (6105-convicted felons, domestic violence, PFA). In most situations, violation of Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act are felonies in Pennsylvania or at least misdemeanors of the first degree.
What happens if a person violates this executive order in Philadelphia?
The Mayor’s Executive Order, however, simply allows police to perhaps arrest a person for trespassing under Title 18 Section 3503 of Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code Title 18). Under that section, a person is considered a defiant trespasser if he or she enters a place or facility and is not privileged to do so. A person who commits such an offense is guilty of a summary offense in Pennsylvania, which carries with it a maximum punishment of 90 days of county jail and a fine.
It is highly unlikely, however, if a person is arrested and charged with such an offense, they will spend any time in jail and more than likely will simply receive at most, the maximum fine of $300. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor and obviously a felony offense. It is equivalent of a low-level retail theft (less than $150), loitering or disorderly conduct. This Executive Order will do little, if anything, to address the city’s gun violence issue or the spiking crime rate.
Practically all radio, Internet and newspaper stories regarding the Mayor’s Executive Order failed to mention the consequences for violating it. These stories simply use the word “gun violence” but in reality, it is effectively a trespassing law.
How can the gun/firearm laws change in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania legislature obviously contains representatives from Philadelphia. It has the ability to pass gun violence legislation for the Governor’s signature. Currently, the Uniform Firearms Act under Section 6108 make it a misdemeanor of the first degree to carry a firearm in the city of Philadelphia without a permit. In addition to it being a felony crime under Section 6106 (license to carry in Pennsylvania) and under Section 6105 (possession of a firearm by a prohibited person).
Currently, Republicans hold a majority in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate (28 to 21 in the Senate and 113-90 in the House). State Senators in Pennsylvania are elected to 4-year terms while State Representatives (House) are elected to 2-year terms. With the majority in the House and Senate, the President of the Senate is a Republican, as is the Speaker of the House; the Lieutenant Governor and Governor are Democrats.
What to do if you’re arrested charged with gun or firearm criminal charge in Pennsylvania?
If you’re charged with a gun crime in Pennsylvania, you should also seek counsel and advice of a qualified criminal defense lawyer. While Pennsylvania does not maintain mandatory minimum gun law sentencing, unlike New Jersey. These are obviously very serious charges. Nevertheless, keep in mind that you have a constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. You should never consent to the search of your property or person, but running from police does allow the prosecution to argue consciousness of guilt at all pre-trial and trial proceedings.
Finally, the burden is on the prosecution to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt in addition to all of your constitutional rights at the pre-trial level.