This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.
At a press conference early last week, District Attorney Larry Krasner responded to a spate of shootings over the July 4th weekend that claimed the lives of four Philadelphians across the city, including the nephew of a State Senator.
“You want change? You better vote! The bottom line is we’re not getting any change out of this state legislature until you have a Democratic majority. You’re not getting it!”
“I’m surprised they don’t spend all day trying to make every gun legal, cause that is how they [Republicans] think about this!”
Krasner’s office has overseen a striking decline in gun prosecutions, even as violent crime and gun arrests spike, as noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported in March that under Krasner, while gun crime arrests have been soaring, conviction rates have dropped significantly. Similarly, under Krasner’s leadership, homicides in Philadelphia have increased by 58 percent.
He went on to blame the National Rifle Association (NRA) for the shooting as well.
“Some corrupt politicians supported by the NRA, with their pockets lined by the NRA! Those are the people who just keep endangering lives in Philadelphia and the rest of the commonwealth and those are the people doing it all over the United States.”
Republicans have held nearly complete control of the Pennsylvania state legislature for the last thirty years, during which crime in Philadelphia has mostly fallen. Under Krasner, homicides in Philadelphia have soared; at this time in 2018, the first year Krasner held office, there were 163 murders in the city. This year, there have been 294 — an increase of 80%.
Krasner’s office has repeatedly opted to pursue lighter sentences even against perpetrators of violent crimes. In several high profile instances, such as the killing of Milan Loncar in Brewerytown in January and the murder of seven year old Zamar Jones in Cobbs Creek, people with serious pending charges have allegedly gone on to kill.
Broad + Liberty recently reported that a man convicted of murdering two people, who was exonerated by the Krasner office, was rearrested in May and charged with possession of a firearm without a license, carrying firearms in public in Philadelphia, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
This had led some critics to assert that Krasner’s unwillingness to prosecute crimes, not the state’s existing gun laws, are to blame for the recent spike in crime. The city’s top cop, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, pointed in March to a “revolving door” at the city’s D.A.’s office during an interview with the Inquirer: “If there’s nothing to deter folks, if there’s no consequence… there’s no incentive to not carry a gun illegally, quite frankly.”
Salahaldin Mahmoud, nephew of Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street, was among those killed over the weekend of July 4th. Senator Street also called for new gun control legislation at the federal and state level.
Last month, during a wide-ranging interview with Politico, Krasner did acknowledge a limited need for law enforcement: “we do need some cops, and we do need some jails and we do need prisons. We just need a whole hell of a lot less of each of those things.”
And in May, city Democrats, including a vast majority of primary voters in high-crime neighborhoods, opted for the incumbent D.A. after a spirited challenge from former homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega.
Larry Krasner’s office did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.