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Police Beatings Deserve Outrage, but It Isn’t Easy Being Blue

Police excess gained huge attention after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 and again after the alleged beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis last month. But police excess isn’t new.

A friend, who had been drinking and could be quite truculent when drunk, was severely beaten in the police cells in Leesburg, Virginia, a couple of decades ago. I have never seen a man so badly hurt in a beating — and I have done my share of police reporting.

That he provoked the police, I have no doubt. But no one should be beaten by the police anywhere, ever, for any amount of provocation. I might mention that my friend — and the officers who might have killed him — are White.

I used to cover the Thames Police Court in the East End of London. That was before immigration had changed the makeup of the East End. It was then, as it had been for a long time, solidly White working class.

Every so often, a defendant would appear in the dock showing signs that he had been in a fight. One man had an arm in a sling, another had a black eye, and a third had bruises on his face. One thing was common: If they looked beaten up, they would be charged with “resisting arrest,” along with other charges like drunkenness and petty larceny.

In the press benches, we shrugged and would say something like, “They worked that bloke over.” We never thought to raise the issue of police brutality. It was just the way things were.

At least nowadays, when social norms don’t allow police to hit suspects, there is a slight chance of redress. Although I would wager that nearly all police violence goes unreported, the “blue wall” closes tightly around it.

People in uniform, men and women, hold dominion over a prisoner. If there is ethnic bias or verbal provocation, bad things can and do happen.

Yet, I hold a brief for the police. Policing is dangerous and heartbreaking work, especially in the United States, where guns are everywhere. Also, it is shift work, itself a stressing factor.

Wearing the blue isn’t easy, and abuse and danger go with the job. Sean Bell, a former British policeman, now a professor at the Open University, described the police workload in the United Kingdom this way, “Those in the policing environment can become a human vacuum for the grief, sorrow, distress and misfortune for the victims of crime, road crashes and the plethora of other incidents dealt with time after time.”

Many of the incidents of American police being shot and police exceeding their authority have as their genesis a traffic stop, as with Nichols. These are a cause of fear for both the police and criminals. It is where the rubber meets the road of law enforcement.

Motorists form our opinions of the police largely through traffic stops, which we rail against. But to the police, they are a  life-threatening hazard as they approach a car that may have a crazed or dangerous criminal driver with a gun. They face danger and tragedy in plain sight.

The only thing police officers are warier of than traffic stops are domestic violence calls. They are the worst, officers in Washington have told me.

Yet, the traffic stop is an essential police tool, partly for controlling traffic but, importantly, for arresting criminals, fugitives and drug transporters. It is how the police work within the constitutional prohibition on illegal search and seizure.

People who have control of other people — drill sergeants, wardens and the police — are in a position to abuse, and some do. A uniform and authority can bring out the inner beast. Remember what went on in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?

After the two terrible incidents of police excess, Floyd and Nichols, all the solutions seem inadequate. But when out on the streets or in our homes, most of us are vitally aware that we feel secure because a call to 911 will bring the law — the men and women in blue who guarantee our safety and wellbeing.

What to do about police violence? Vigilance is the first line of defense, but appreciating the police and holding them to account helps. Not many police officers feel appreciated, and that isn’t good for them or for society.

“The policeman’s lot is not a happy one!” So wrote British dramatist W.S. Gilbert in “The Pirates of Penzance,” an 1879 comic opera, one of his collaborations with composer Arthur Sullivan.

And Gilbert and Sullivan had never dreamt of a traffic stop.

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Bucks, Montco DAs Announce Arrests in Gun Trafficking Ring

Twenty-year-old Clayton Robinson of Glenside is the alleged mastermind behind a multi-county gun trafficking ring, where guns were bought by straw purchasers, stripped of their serial numbers, and then sold for cash or bartered for drugs, Delaware Valley officials said Thursday.

The gun ring is also said to have stolen some of the firearms they traded.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub were on hand with Abington Police Chief Patrick Molloy and numerous officers and detectives for a press conference announcing the arrests. The six guns that police and detectives had seized were on display. However, there are at least 34 guns involved in the scheme, with more likely, said Steele, who added the investigation is ongoing.

Robinson and his crew also sold guns with “switches” they had made to change the firing action from semiautomatic to fully automatic.

“It’s going to fire the entire number of bullets that are in that gun,” said Steele.

Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy, Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele, and Bucks DA Matt Weintraub discuss gun ring arrests.

Robinson’s two brothers, Julian Robinson, 31, and Kenneth Robinson, 18, were also involved, said Steele.

“This was a true family business,” said Weintraub. “And the product was illegally purchased firearms.”

Clayton Robinson said in a message found by detectives, “I’m not trying to end up in a tri-county tooling ring. Feel me.”

“That’s exactly what these individuals have done,” said Steele. “Tool” is slang for gun.

Clayton Robinson was found in possession of an illegal gun and “this led us to all of these other straw purchases,” he said.

As well as officers and detectives in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, investigators worked with the ATF, FBI, and Attorney General’s Office he said.

“We looked through the electronic record of sales (EROS) and ATF and Pennsylvania state gun sales forms,” he said. At gun stores, cellphone downloads, social media posts, and surveillance, he said.

The straw purchase buyers were allegedly Joseph Lynch, 25 of Morrisville, who purchased 17 guns between November 17, 2020, and March 15, 2021; Maurice Baker IV, 23, of Levittown, who purchased 12 guns between May 12, 2021, and December 31, 2021, and Brett Portner, 22, of Jenkintown, who bought five guns between Jan. 11, 2021, and Feb. 3, 2022.

“Straw purchases of guns for people not allowed to purchase them is dangerous, and is dangerous to our communities,” said Steele. “That is why we are emphasizing these investigations and will continue to investigate.”

Photographs of Clayton Robinson holding one of the guns and also a video of him grinding the serial number off of it were displayed.

“This (video) was made because he’s letting his customers know he’s taking the serial numbers off these guns,” said Steele.

“Quite frankly, we appreciate the very strong evidence he has provided to us,” said Steele.  Also, there was a text message from Clayton Robinson saying, “Come drop me off a pistol, too. I really got to stay dangerous.”

Steele asked anyone who knows where the other guns are to come forward before SWAT officers raid their homes. The guns can be turned in anonymously through their lawyers.

Weintraub said several of the firearms were found through car stops by police in Bensalem, Yardley, and Middletown and praised the “great police work” involved.

“Thank God for criminals who like to show off,” said Weintraub.

“The vast majority of these guns were purchased seemingly legally in Bucks County,” he said. But 28 guns “are still out there in the hands of criminals, who intend to terrorize, maim, hurt and kill. This is unacceptable…Something has to be done about this.”

“Fighting illegal gun trafficking is our top priority in Bucks County,” said Weintraub. “We are all in on this.”

Clayton Robinson, a suspect, removing a serial number from a gun.

Several gun stores in Bucks County had sold the guns to the straw purchasers and are cooperating with authorities, he said.

“This is a scourge. Drugs and guns go hand and hand and we know that” he said. “The combination is not only dangerous. It’s deadly. And it’s proliferating.”

Weintraub said a lot of law enforcement agencies are working together.

“It’s all hands on deck to eradicate this scourge,” he said.

Asked if the guns were used in other crimes, Steele said some were, including in Idaho and Massachusetts.

The suspects made small amounts of money or traded the guns for drugs, said Steele.

“This is people making not a lot of money, hundreds of dollars, and now they’re facing five-year mandatory sentences for a small amount of money and a small amount of drugs. If anyone thinks it’s worth it, they’re sadly mistaken,” Steele said.

“People were placing orders (for guns),” Steele added.

“The five men were operating a corrupt organization,” said Steele. “When you talk about straw purchases, individuals who can legally buy guns were buying them and putting them in the hands of criminals.”

When someone does this more than once it is a 5-year mandatory sentence under the Brad Fox Law, named for a police officer who was killed with a firearm bought through a straw purchase, said Steele.

The five men face multiple charges, including conspiracy, unlawful purchase of firearms, and criminal use of communication facilities, said Steele.

“We’ve got this epidemic of gun violence,” said Malloy. “When you think of Abington, Montgomery County being five short miles away from one of the most violent neighborhoods in our country and for us in Abington our officers during car stops are witnessing more guns…often it starts by good proactive policing.”

Abington Police had a search warrant for Robinson’s house and used a drone to find a gun that he had hidden on his roof, said Steele.

“Just because we haven’t tied any of these guns to any homicides, there is no doubt if we were not out there doing this work, then one of these guns would be responsible for taking the life of someone,” said Malloy.

Steele said if one of the trafficked guns is found to have been used in a homicide or shooting the sentencing judges for the defendants will be informed of that fact.

The affidavit of probable cause said the ring members were involved in a “gun trafficking operation.”

“The purpose of this corrupt organization was to illegally obtain and distribute numerous firearms to others,” it said. The ring members “conspired to purchase firearms illegally, making materially false statements on the application/record of sale and then illegally transferring the firearms.”

While most of the members of the straw purchase gun ring are in custody, authorities are seeking Lynch, who is on the lam and may be in Kentucky.

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DelVal Hit With Crime Wave

Comic Collection owner David Schwartz operated in Feasterville for decades without problems, until two masked men barged into his establishment last month while he was doing inventory.

One claimed to be searching for his wallet, but shocking footage showed one of the men swiping a ladder out from underneath the store owner’s feet with the ferocity of a linebacker as he reached for a statue on a shelf. Schwartz tumbled to the ground, cracking his ribs as the two men beat and kicked him, then bound him with zip ties. One brandished a knife, and the men demanded Schwartz instruct them how to open the cash register before stuffing about $16,000 worth of merchandise into duffel bags.

Before leaving the store, they lifted one final keepsake off Schwartz – a Mickey Mouse watch his father bought him as a boy. Luckily, a neighbor noticed the suspicious men and called police who rescued the store owner.

“I’m very happy that I’m here today to talk to you about this. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone else ever,” Schwartz said during a state House committee hearing convened last week by lawmakers raising alarms about crime infiltrating the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Law-enforcement officials from Bucks and Montgomery counties testified about a stark uptick in violent crime and property crimes and identified increasingly scary drug trends in other parts of the state. There were reports of fentanyl being packaged up like “Skittles and Razzles” along with another deadly drug, xylazine, known as “tranq,” that has overtaken Philadelphia’s heroin and fentanyl supply.

Some former prosecutors and law-enforcement officials attribute it to a “spillover effect” from Philadelphia, which set a record for homicides last year and has seen more than 1,000 carjackings in 2022.

“It’s the disorder in Philly. It’s an open-air crime market, and they’re not prosecuting any crimes. It’s the Kranser effect,” said Tom Hogan, former Chester County district attorney, referring to the city’s progressive DA who lawmakers are trying to impeach.

In Cheltenham, for example, the number of strong-armed robberies has doubled, Sgt. Michael Moore said. In Warrington, about 35 miles north of Philadelphia, Police Chief Dan Friel testified about a more than 360 percent spike in credit card frauds from last year, along with several robberies of the local Target. Many out-of-town fraudsters come to Warrington to commit crime knowing they’re less likely to be recognized.

Separately, Guy Ciarrocchi, a Republican running for Congress in Chester and Berks counties, told DVJournal about a carjacking at a Target in Devon, an armed robbery at a Whole Foods in Tredyffrin and a stabbing at a Bertucci’s on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.

Grab-and-go shoplifters have targeted suburban stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart, in part, law-enforcement officials say, because they’re viewed by criminals as “soft targets.”

“These guys are like our Border Patrol,” Rep. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne) said during the hearing of law enforcement’s efforts to contain the spread of violence.

It’s hard to determine whether crime is up statewide after the FBI transitioned to a new data collection system, called the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The FBI estimated that murders rose 4 percent nationwide compared with 2020 while overall violent crime was down about 1 percent. But the report was incomplete because thousands of law enforcement agencies hadn’t submitted data, according to the Marshall Project. Only 40 of more than 1,500 in Pennsylvania had done so.

In Bensalem, Public Safety Director Bill McVey said of the more than 3,800 crimes reported to his department in 2021, about 1,700 were serious offenses such as murder, rape and robber.

Crime was up about 12 percent from the previous year, and 42 percent of arrests in 2021 were people from Philadelphia, some out on bail for other crimes, McVey said.

Officials say the spike is due to several factors that included laxer prosecutions of certain crimes in the city, decriminalization of retail thefts under $500, lack of proactive policing that has hamstrung Philly officers and an increase in people who resorted to drugs to cope with mental health issues exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Crime is very real here,” Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-Chalfont) said at the hearing. “A lot of folks are worried for themselves, their kids. There’s a rash of crime going on now and we have to get ahold of it.”

Matt Weintraub, the Republican district attorney of Bucks County, claimed about 70 percent of crimes in in Bucks County were related  or fueled by drugs and alcohol.

With an influx of cases overwhelming local medical and jail systems, Weintraub has pushed for the county to build a crisis stabilization unit, dubbed “Stable U,” on land that could be acquired from a local health provider for $1. Local government officials so far secured $5 million toward the project, which needs another $5 to $7 million to get off the ground, Weintraub said.

“We’ve been knocking at the door. Let us be the guinea pigs,” he told legislators. “We mean business. We just need more funding.”

Others say solving crime in the region is tied to cracking down on repeat offenders.

Some law-enforcement officials voiced support for a proposal from Farry that would require mandatory minimums for convicted felons found with guns, with penalties starting off with 11 months in the slammer and increasing to five and 15 years for subsequent offenses.

Others blamed progressive policies they say handcuff police officers’  ability to prevent crime, such as Philly’s ban of minor traffic stops.

McVey said it’s one less tool for Philly cops. And it’s been an effective one for Buck County cops, who stop between 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles each year, often leading to discovery of other crimes, McVey said.

Gun seizures in the township are up 62 percent the last two years.

“Many of these guns are seized as a result of proactive measures which prevent shootings and tragedies from occurring,” McVey said.

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POINT: Who Are the Real Heroes?

For an alternate viewpoint, see: COUNTERPOINT: Elisha Dicken is a hero

Calling the young man who shot a mass shooter at a mall in Indiana a “hero” has deadly consequences. It’s not that the young man didn’t act heroically.  He did. He was also lucky. It’s that calling him a hero is dangerous. Giving massive publicity to a young shooter feeds our country’s horrific violent crime crisis.

It feels like good news when we focus on the prevented deaths. However, when we examine the big picture, the hero intervening encourages more guns to be bought, with significant negative consequences. It increases the likelihood of untrained citizens engaging in cowboy-style exchanges with often military-style armed individuals, causing innocent bystanders to be killed or injured in a prolonged battle. It takes control away from professional law officers and makes the distinction between the “bad guy” and the mass killer ambiguous.

The 22-year-old is not one of society’s heroes in the long-term sense of the word. Giving him this label has grave consequences. It encourages imitations, many of which will not turn out well.

Lives were saved in Indiana. We can be pleased with that. However, considering this a heroic deed feeds into the myth that it is smart and manly to own weapons built to kill other humans. It is not.

Imagine a world of would-be-armed heroes, some well-trained and most not, some with good aim and judgment, but most not. Picture yourself in a mall with your children caught in the crossfire of many armed citizens shooting from multiple directions. You’ve seen such episodes portrayed in cartoons, but there’s nothing funny or heroic here — just potential carnage.

We are currently awash with guns. The NRA, gun companies and retail gun stores are undoubtedly delighted over this young man’s behavior. It plays into their storyline and profits. Gun-promoting governors likely have a smile on their faces as well.

The young man’s actions coincide with the imagery of weapons manufacturers and the pro-gun lobby. For the gun manufacturers, his action will bring millions of dollars to an already bountiful business. Gun retailers, too, will be pleased. They benefit from a considerable supply of young men wrestling with their identity, youngsters vulnerable to the mythical power gun ownership provides.

The manufacturers and gun retailers tell buyers they can win the lottery of being a hero, a protector of loved ones and others.

The media played right into the hands of the pro-gun advocates. “Hero” and “Good Samaritan” filled television spots on the right and left, freely giving out the hero label. The local police chief called the young man’s action “nothing short of heroic.” Fox News described him as “a true American hero,” a ready-made quote for weapon companies. These remarks come as police chiefs across the country mourn the widespread availability of guns, tying it to the increase in violent crime.

The challenge of this “good news” of a mass killing interrupted is that it also conveys a ghastly myth that more Americans can be a hero carrying a gun. Gun manufacturers, retailers and conservative politicians will undoubtedly pounce on this perception for personal gain.

Here are a few facts these gun proponents will leave out in their promotion of the gun-toting hero. States with the highest gun ownership have the highest rates of gun violence, including the highest rates of deaths by guns. When gun ownership goes up, suicides and accidental deaths and gun injury increase. The Jim Brady website states, “Every day, 22 children and teens are shot in the United States.”

The Gun Violence Archive recorded 692 mass shootings last year and 356 through the first three weeks of July 2022. That’s 1,048 mass shootings. Where were the remaining 1,047 “heroes” to save the day? Heroes are not the answer. Changing our gun culture and restricting the number of guns that kill human beings is the only answer that makes sense.

We have no shortage of heroes. They are not on the front pages of our newspapers. They are in legislatures where men and women are attempting to reduce the number of handguns in our nation. They are the parents building up young men and women to be strong, not needing a weapon to give them an identity. They are the real heroes working to save lives.

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FLOWERS: Abortion, Gun Violence and Root Causes

When the news leaked that the U.S. Supreme Court was about to overturn Roe v. Wade, some people argued that banning abortions wouldn’t end them. They said that it was much more efficient to examine the root causes behind why a woman would want an abortion and try to eliminate those instead of criminalizing the procedure.

They talked about support for pregnant mothers, expanded daycare, generous medical leave, financial subsidies, an expansion of programs like WIC, and all the other social safety net policies that would encourage a woman to bring a child into the world.

Even though I’m very anti-Roe, I think this is a reasonable position to take. Treat the underlying illness, not the symptom.

Funny how that principle doesn’t translate to other contexts. Take gun violence. Whenever there is a mass shooting, the default position for many of these same people is to demand a ban on guns. Some talk about additional legal restrictions, others talk about creating gun-free zones, and others think we should kill the beast with one direct blow, so to speak, and repeal the Second Amendment.

Going straight to the “ban guns” argument seems very much like the idea that if you overturn Roe, you can eliminate abortion. Some might bicker with the comparison because they don’t equate terminating a pregnancy with killing a human being, but that’s a philosophical point. Regardless of whether you believe the unborn child is human (science has something to say about that), the similarity in the reasoning process is the same:

We oppose killing, therefore, we remove the immediate cause or method of that killing.

But most of the anti-gun crowd prefer to play the “ban guns” card, instead of engaging in a holistic examination of the causes of massacres like those in Buffalo and Texas.

I gave a lecture this week to a group of Drexel students majoring in public health administration. I opened with a comparison between what happened in Uvalde, Texas, and what happened 10 years ago at Sandy Hook. The similarities are chilling.

Adam Lanza was a 20-year-old loner who had no father figure, lived with a mother who ignored his increasingly erratic behavior, and helped him purchase guns for his birthday and other holidays.  Salvador Ramos was an 18-year-old loner who had no father figure, lived with his grandmother (because apparently his mother had a serious drug problem), exhibited disturbing behavior like cutting himself, and he purchased semi-automatic weapons for his birthday.

If we focus only on the guns, we get a skewed picture of why these two young men snapped.

I am far from a gun enthusiast. I’ve never owned one, never shot one, and the only time I saw one in person was when I was dating a police officer years ago and he showed me his vast collection. I looked at those things as I’d look at objects in a museum: not particularly interesting.

I have no problem admitting that the proliferation of guns is a problem that needs to be addressed in a society that has far too many loopholes and allows far too many people to buy guns they shouldn’t have. Not even the great Antonin Scalia, who wrote the Heller decision that recognized an individual right to bear arms, thought that the Second Amendment was absolute.

Anyone who is farther to the right on guns than Scalia is a very scary person.

But again, when we focus on guns, we ignore the other equally important factors that contribute to the bloodshed of innocents. The most important ones are the destruction of the nuclear family and mental health. Whenever you raise the issue of mental health in conjunction with mass shootings, you get pushback from those who treat the mentally ill. They reason that since most of those who suffer from mental illness are not dangerous, it stigmatizes the majority to imply that shooters are “crazy.”  But, as I also mentioned to the students, that’s a function of our desperate need to avoid giving offense.

Who cares if you are offending the mental health community by making the valid point that these teenage shooters are sick?  Are we so immune to the sight of dead children that we worry about some hypothetical stigma for calling out the elephant in the room? Adam Lanza and Salvador Ramos were mentally disturbed. Say it.

The same goes for nuclear families. Those boys came from families where there was no male presence.  Coincidence? Not likely. Say it.

My point is this: If we are capable of considering alternatives to overturning Roe, we should be capable of considering alternatives to repealing the Second Amendment. The solution requires honesty, creativity, and — most of all — guts.


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Urban Navigation: Helping to End Youth Violence in DelVal Communities

Kids are shooting kids.

In Philadelphia, the 2021 murders were the highest in decades—562. And as of Feb. 10, 55 people have been murdered this year. People point fingers at city officials and the state legislature, the police, and the schools. But who is doing something to help?

Enter Urban Navigation.

This new organization, founded by Don Jackson and Hameen Diggins, is stepping up to get kids on the right track and keep them there. Already operating in Philadelphia, they are in talks with the City of Chester, Collingdale, Upper Darby, and Ardmore to bring Urban Navigation to the suburbs.

Jackson, a founder of the Philadelphia Technician Training Institute, said the technical school is for students 18 and older and teaches them skills to get good-paying jobs.

Don Jackson (left) and Hameen Diggins

But with the rising crime rate, he decided that younger kids needed guidance and to learn some skills, too.

“There’s a rise in all the gun activity,” said Jackson. “So what we did was we started looking at younger kids, and what we understand is getting to them while they’re still at the stage that they haven’t graduated to the next level of stuff.”

Urban Navigation teaches kids technical skills, like fixing their bicycles, fixing small motor machines like dirt bikes or ATVs, and gun safety.

“You know, they’re riding down the street, doing wheelies or whatnot, and kids are very much into bicycles,” he said. “Just peddling, 50 kids peddling.”

Jackson said they have also worked to get groups of young ATV riders that plague Philadelphia streets into areas where it is safe and legal to ride those vehicles. They use “media, music, videography…everything that basically attracts our youth. And social media. We developed a virtual reality platform.”

“We give them conflict resolution training,” said Jackson.

Diggins said, “We saw the need when it came to the youth culture, to give them a voice. So we knew how to help them.”

Diggins’ own experiences of being raised in foster care and group homes help him relate to the underprivileged kids, he said. He survived a difficult childhood and is now a nurse, a photographer, a DJ, and a certified life coach.

“Gun violence is out of control,” said Diggins. “We give them a reason not to shoot, to give them an alternative by having gun safety education.”

The kids already have guns, he said. “We focus on the value of life. We have to give youth a reason not to shoot each other. If they value themselves, they value others.”

“There is a lot of misplaced anger,” Diggins said. “We try to give them a different way to look at things.”

“A lot of this is them trying to be seen,” he said.

Urban Navigation has programs for kids from 8 to 19.

If their parents are not present in kids’ lives, through dads abandoning the family or mothers on drugs, “the street becomes the parent,” and the kids join gangs. Urban Navigation combats that by offering positive activities, he said.

Learning to fix things is helpful. The kids then “understand their hands can be used for a lot more than violence.”

Jackson said, “We deal with a lot of trauma in these young kids. They’re going through broken homes. They got a single parent; maybe one of their parents passed away. They got an older sibling getting ready to go to jail.”

“We want to teach these kids how to be productive citizens,” said Jackson. “We involve them in after-school activities. We’ll teach you how to repair the power sports, as well.

Jackson said they’ve invested $200,000 of their own money to get the nonprofit, up and running. To keep the kids safe, all of the adults working with them go through criminal background checks.

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DelVal Rep. Williams Calls Out Shapiro over Philly Gun Violence, Wants More State Action on Crime

Delaware County state Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford) says Attorney General Josh Shapiro has been a no-show in the fight against Philadelphia’s surging violent crime, and he says that needs to change.

“Attorney General Josh Shapiro has routinely blamed the General Assembly for violence in Philadelphia,” Williams said during a press conference outside the Attorney General’s Office. “Yet when given authority to prosecute gun crime in Philadelphia, he said expressly he would not use it. We intend to give him another chance to pitch into the fight.”

In 2021, Philadelphia recorded 562 homicides and 2,332 shootings. The highest previous year was 500 homicides in 1990. And the murder rate in 2022 is already on pace to eclipse last year’s record high. Additionally, gunpoint carjackings have nearly tripled since 2019, with more than 100 already in 2022. Even a congresswoman was a carjacking victim.

Hoping to make a dent in gun crimes, Williams joined with state Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) to extend a two-year pilot program giving Shapiro jurisdiction to enforce gun crime laws. In 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law (Act 58) giving the attorney general the authority to investigate and charge certain gun crimes in Philadelphia.

White said during a Tuesday press conference outside the Attorney General’s Office, unfortunately, Shapiro has yet to use the law a single time to get a criminal off Pennsylvania streets.

“Even though the murder rate in Philadelphia rose to record levels, Attorney General Josh Shapiro refused to use this new tool to help us fight crime in Philadelphia,” White said. “Nonetheless, we’re extending the law to give Shapiro a second chance to do what is right as gun crime continues to rise. It’s clear the state must step in to protect the people of Philadelphia from their irresponsible district attorney, Larry Krasner, and that person is the attorney general of Pennsylvania.”

Republicans argue Shapiro needs to step up because of District Attorney Larry Krasner’s extreme progressive policies.

“Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is an ineffective prosecutor, who has refused to fully prosecute many offenses,” White said. “What is of grave concern though, is his refusal to prosecute our state’s most serious crimes, which he has left a trail of murder victims and devastated communities. Our brave law enforcement officers are out there every day doing absolutely everything that they can to arrest these criminals and protect our communities.

“As state officials, we have a responsibility to oversee public safety in our cities and counties. When local officials refuse to act, we must,” she said.

Williams, a former federal prosecutor, said $1.5 million in funding he secured to hire more gun prosecutors in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties, has now come online. The money will flow to the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which deputizes those local prosecutors as federal prosecutors, who will bring the weight of federal statutes on felons who are not permitted to have a gun. Federal sentences are longer and there is no probation, he noted.

Shapiro rejected the proposal as mere partisanship.

“We appreciate the trust our office has earned from the General Assembly for expanding our fight against gun violence to keep Pennsylvanians safe,” said Shapiro, in a statement. “This proposal is a fake solution to a very real problem in Philadelphia, put forth with no input from our office. There are meaningful steps to be taken – but everyone needs to be serious and get to work.”

“The General Assembly should stop passing the buck and act. Close the ghost gun loophole that is fueling violence and putting guns in the hands of criminals. Pass mandatory bail reform for gun crimes so these criminals aren’t back out on our streets the very next day. And help cities fill hundreds of police officer vacancies and expand services. These steps would actually help reduce violence – not this finger-pointing.”

In the meantime, the Gun Violence Task Force, with cross-designated prosecutors, has prosecuted four cases in 2019, 24 in 2020, and 38 in 2021, the Attorney General’s Office said.  There were 571 ghost guns recovered in Philadelphia in 2021, up 128 percent from 2020 and up 489 percent from 2019. Ghost guns are weapons that are homemade and untraceable. Nearly 10 percent of firearms found by the Philadelphia Police Department are ghost guns.

Shapiro noted he has Strategic Response teams in place, working with the Philadelphia police,  in West Philadelphia and Kensington.

Krasner spokeswoman Jane Roh did not respond to Delaware Valley Journal’s request for comment. However, she told PennLive that White and Williams’ news conference was a “comically timed stunt” held on the same day the Republican majority in the state Senate was scheduled to vote on a bill to block Philadelphia and other local governments from “enacting life-saving gun restrictions because these same lawmakers will not.”

However, White and Williams said they are giving the attorney general another chance to buy into Act 58 in the wake of the record number of homicides in the city.

“So, we’re putting the ball on a tee for him again,” said Williams.

“When there is no cooperation, people lose their lives,” White said. “That’s why we must extend this law and demand Attorney General Josh Shapiro prosecute the law the way District Attorney Larry Krasner will not. Lives depend on it.”

Meanwhile, Delaware County DA Jack Stollsteimer is cooperating with state officials.

He “welcomes any and every resource to stop gun violence in Delaware County. Our office was only notified that grant funding for this program was available in the last week; we have however, immediately taken steps to seek County Council’s approval to accept the grant at its first meeting in February. It’s important to note that while adding several federal prosecutors to the US Attorney’s Office to handle gun cases will no doubt affect the problem of gun violence in our region, it is no panacea.  For example, (the DA) has already instituted, without federal resources, a focused deterrence strategy in the City of Chester that has led to a 44 percent reduction in incidents of gun violence during 2021,” said Maggie McAboy, a spokeswoman.

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In Senate Debate, Dems Take Aim at Republicans, Not Each Other

U.S. Senate candidates at a forum at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia last week criticized Republicans and not each other.

Although Rev.  Alyn Waller said he invited all the candidates of both parties who are running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R), only three Democrats came: Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Dr. Val Arkoosh, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) and Congressman Conor Lamb (D-Beaver).

The three answered questions submitted by area Black clergy and one by moderator Sharrie Williams, a co-anchor for Channel 6ABC. Williams asked them what they would do if elected about record levels of homicide and violent crime in Philadelphia. None of the three mentioned any culpability for DA Larry Krasner, a progressive Democrat.

Instead, Lamb, a former federal prosecutor under the Obama administration, spoke about passing laws to restrict gun ownership.

“Guns are multiplying fast in our society. We have 400 million…The least we can do is make sure the people that possess them actually qualify to have them under the law,” he said. Lamb also supports spending more money on community programs to try to curb violence and “direct interventions” with young people who are “most at risk” for violence. He would also like to target more federal dollars on preventing gun crime and less on prosecuting drug crimes.

“The DEA gets three times what the ATF does,” said Lamb.

Congressman Conor Lamb

Kenyatta mentioned violence in his neighborhood.

“I’m going to go home tonight to my home in north Philadelphia. It’s probably likely I could hear gunshots ring out.” There have been “folks tragically cut down blocks from my home,” he said.

“We cannot have another year in Philadelphia where we’ve had 550 people murdered on our streets and more who were shot but survived. The first thing we have to treat this like the emergency that it is,” he said.

He has asked Gov. Tom Wolf to declare gun crime an emergency “as we did with the opioid crisis.” He would also like to see more laws regulating gun ownership.

“So many of the weapons that ended up being used in a gun homicide were weapons that did not belong to the person who did the shooting,” he said. “Dealing with lost and stolen weapons, trying to get to the root cause of the consistent straw purchasing that we’re seeing, is critical.”

The state has also “released millions into the hands of organizations to disrupt gun violence,” he added. The other factor to reduce crime and violence is to end poverty, he said, explaining that if people have good jobs, kids are in good schools, and families have houses, that would reduce violence.

“We need to treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is,” said Arkoosh. She would like to see what she called background check “loopholes closed, and she would like to keep those charged with domestic violence or at risk for suicide from legally owning guns. She also opposes ownership of “military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

“I don’t see any use for weapons like that on our streets,” said Arkoosh. She also favors more after-school programs and mentorship to keep kids on the right track.

Their comments echo those of President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who blame America’s gun laws for the recent surge in crime. Academics note that while gun sales did rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not a significant change in the number of guns today versus three years ago when gun crime rates were lower.

Asked about the role of senators in approving federal judges and Supreme Court justices, Kenyatta said, “Right now we have a radical, conservative Supreme Court that is out of control, out of control.” He supports increasing the number of judges on the court to give it a liberal majority — a practice known as “court-packing.” However, he praised the judges who have been appointed Biden.

“We need to suss out and extinguish this conservative judicial philosophy that believes money is equal to speech and any corporation or wealthy person in society can spend as much as they want on politics in the name of speech. That is ruining our politics,” said Lamb.

Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Valerie Arkoosh

Arkoosh said the Supreme Court now is in a “very fragile place” and that matters coming before it that should be handled legislatively.

“Washington is so broken that somebody like Mitch McConnell can not only steal a Supreme Court seat but he can block all this other legislation from ever even getting to a vote. And my pledge to you, if I am your next United States Senator there will be hell to pay if Mitch McConnell or anyone else tries to steal a Supreme Court justice seat.

“And of course, I will be a vote against the filibuster so we can move on this critical legislation,” she added.

Kenyatta and Lamb also pledged to do away with the filibuster.

During her opening remarks, Arkoosh brought up the recent hostage crisis at the synagogue in Texas.

“We must speak out with one voice against antisemitism, which has no place in our commonwealth and our country, just as racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Asian hatred have no place in our society,” said Arkoosh.

Kenyatta said, “In this moment in this campaign we should answer a simple question. Who should government work for? I know my answer: It should work for working families like mine and so many others.”

He promised to focus on inequity.

“I’ve been all across this commonwealth, folks get it. But I will tell you who doesn’t get it so often: the 100 folks in the Senate who don’t know anything about what we’re going to talk about today,” said Kenyatta.

Lamb touted his electability, saying that he won twice in a red district that had elected Trump and that as a congressman he has sought out the advice of his African American constituents.

“I will never make false promises to the Black community. I will do my best to speak to you about the achievable, the doable,” said Lamb, who touted Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which passed the House but has not made it through the Senate.

All three supported the “Freedom to Vote Act,” the proposal to override state election laws and impose federal rules on voting. The proposal was defeated in the Senate last week when an effort to end the filibuster was defeated in a bipartisan vote, 48-52.

“Republicans are working every day to disenfranchise Black and Brown voters and doing everything they can to reduce the voter confidence in the election process,” Arkoosh claimed. “We need to make it easier to vote.” She suggested making Election Day a national holiday and allowing people to register on Election Day. She also said voting by mail “worked incredibly well in Pennsylvania.”

Kenyatta said that in the state legislature he fought Republican efforts to audit the 2020 election and used community organizing techniques to turn out protestors at Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman’s house.

And Lamb accused Republicans of trying to “limit the right of people to vote” in Houston, Texas, and that they “looked at ways people of color vote and targeted them.”

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PA Teacher Asks Republicans to Shoot Unvaxxed Constituents

A 9th grade English teacher, who is a member of the board of the National Education Association, posted a disturbing rant on social media blasting people who have not gotten vaccinated and saying, “I don’t know why the GOP doesn’t just take those guns they profess to love so much and start shooting all of their constituents who think this way.”

“It would be quicker and ultimately safer than putting me and my friends and family at risk,” said Mollie Paige Mumau, who teaches at General McLane High School in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

“Screw this guy and screw them all who are all about hiding behind religious exemptions because they don’t want anybody to tell them what to do. People tell you what to do all the time and you do it. This is such BS,” said Mumau in her post. “He and his ilk deserve whatever comes their way, including losing jobs, getting sick and perhaps dying from the virus. But in the meantime, he’s going to put all the people around him in danger.”

Neither Mumau nor the NEA responded to a request for comment.

“The district is aware of a potentially inappropriate social media comment by a staff member. The district will investigate the matter and act accordingly. In all situations, the district’s utmost concern is the safety of our students and staff,” said Sarah Grabski, director of communications and administrative services for the General McLane School District.

Grabski confirmed that Mumau is an employee, but “she is not in our buildings today. We are not legally permitted to share any additional information about personnel actions or consequences at this time.”

Some candidates were appalled by Mumau’s post.

“The teacher should be fired. More importantly, this anti-science, partisan hate has no place in America—especially, someone entrusted with educating our children. We expect teachers to lead and nurture—not preach hate, division and violence,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, a Republican candidate for governor. He is on leave from his position as president of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry.

“The General McLane School District should take immediate action to fire her,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist and gubernatorial candidate. “We can’t have someone like her teaching our kids.  This is an outrageous rant from a delusional and angry teacher.”

Former Republican Congressman Lou Barletta, who is running for governor, said, “This just shows the shocking contempt that the bureaucracy has for the rights of students and parents. The government shouldn’t be ordering people to take the vaccine, when it should be their own personal medical decision. And parents should be in charge of medical decisions for their own children, not the government.

“This also highlights the fact that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is in court right now to continue forcing kids to wear masks in school,” said Barletta. “These ought to be parental decisions because we know that kids are less susceptible to the virus than adults. It’s just common sense, which sadly seems to be in short supply these days.”

Shapiro did not respond to a request to comment for this article.

Myron Goldman, a retired Philadelphia School District math teacher and the GOP chairman for Cheltenham, said, “Such a comment, assuming it is accurate, would be horrible for anyone to utter, but for a teacher to state such hate, calls into question this person’s fitness to teach children.

I would expect the board of the teacher’s district to react.  On the other hand, if accurate, the statement would demonstrate the teacher’s belief that any attack on Republicans, no matter how vile or violent, is acceptable.  I wonder if she has a ‘Hate has no home here’ sign on her lawn.”


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