Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Game! Spot the Anti Lies!

With more than 300 murders so far this year, Philadelphia has been struggling to contain gun violence.
If I was a Philadelphia resident, I could walk into any gun shop in the city and buy 50, 100, even 1,000 guns, just like that. All they would do is run an instant background check, and assuming my record was clean, I'd walk out with all that firepower.

There's no waiting period, no rules on who I can and can't sell those weapons to. In fact, state law says I don't even have to get a license for the guns or register them.

Could this be contributing to the gun violence in Philadelphia? So far this year, there have been more than 300 murders, and more than 85 percent of them were the result of a firearm, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

Ray Jones, a community volunteer with the group Men United, blames state lawmakers for not passing tougher gun laws and for keeping cities like Philadelphia from passing their own regulations.

"It's about survival," Jones said. "People are dying in the streets and we need to get help."

The fight over gun laws has turned into a power struggle between the state government and Philadelphia.

Back in 1994, the state legislature overturned an assault weapons ban, making AK-47s as easy to get as hunting rifles. The next year, rules were eased on concealed weapons. Today it's actually against the law in Pennsylvania for a policeman to ask anyone why they want to carry a concealed weapon.

At last check, there are now 29,000 permits to carry concealed weapons in Philadelphia, compared to about 800 applications for permits back in 1995. One law enforcement source told me the state is handing out permits to carry like "candy."

State Senator Vincent Fumo is a gun owner, and he supports the current laws. "People want to think that this is the wild west, and we don't have any laws. What we don't have is enforcement of those laws," he told CNN.

Many here in the city argue that if Philadelphia had "home rule", as it's called, and the city was allowed to pass more stringent gun laws, people would be safer.

"It really would be appropriate for the city to determine its own sort of destiny," Jones told CNN. "Now our hands are sort of handcuffed."

Who do you think has the right to set the ground rules when it comes to guns? The state or the city?

-- Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent