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GIORDANO: Parker’s Primary Victory a Win for Suburbs, Too

If you’re like me, your initial reaction to Cherelle Parker’s big win in Philadelphia’s Democratic Party’s mayoral race is the like the relief people feel when you’re driving and you narrowly miss a collision or the joy you feel when your medical tests come back clear.

Philadelphia dodged the disaster of Helen Gym, the darling of White progressives, becoming mayor. That’s good news for everyone in our area, not just in the city. And I believe Cherelle Parker will be a suburban-friendly mayor who draws suburbanites back to Philadelphia.

Parker started to come on my show about a year ago, and we openly discussed that some of her advisors cautioned against going on my station and talking with me. Listeners bonded with her over her joyous and infectious spirit, her support of restoring quality of life in Philadelphia, and her staunch opposition to safe injection sites.

On the other hand, Helen Gym put out a press release to the media attacking six Democrats who joined me for mayoral debates. The release noted I had said that I’d have to move away from Philadelphia if Gym were elected mayor. I took it as a high honor that the release directed me to “Start packing.”

I believe Parker will reach out to the suburbs because when she served in Harrisburg, she reached across party lines on many big issues. And on my show, she has dispelled the idea Philadelphia can’t work across geographic lines with suburban leaders.

Her approach is important because, even though Helen Gym was defeated, she still had a strong base of support. She did best with White progressives, particularly those making over $100,000 yearly and living in places like Center City and Chestnut Hill. Those people have largely been insulated from the violence plaguing Philadelphia. Those people loved Gym events featuring AOC and Bernie Sanders and touted the money and support Gym got from Jane Fonda.

Parker rolled up huge support from Black and Latino neighborhoods that have suffered under the wildly progressive policies of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. It’s hard to concentrate on the latest chic policies of the merry band of radicals when the bullets are flying.

Even though Parker has the nomination, she will face a quality challenger in Republican nominee David Oh. On my show this week, Oh pushed back on Parker’s apparent support for an arena that the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers want to build on Market Street. He also opposes her call for constitutional stop-and-frisk stops by the Philadelphia Police. Oh feels these stops are overreach by the government, and he plans to link that position to the theme of overreach by Philadelphia’s city government.

In addition to the Philadelphia races, there were two big developments in suburban races. Republican Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale was defeated by two Republican Party candidates endorsed by the Montgomery County GOP. Liz Preate Havey, former chairperson for Republicans in Montco, told me the endorsement sealed the defeat of Gale and that going forward, the Republican State Committee should endorse candidates in primaries to head off candidates like Doug Mastriano, who Josh Shapiro destroyed in the recent governor’s race.

The special election held in Delaware County held to fill the position of former state Rep. Mike Zabel showed how ineffectual the Delco Republicans are and how abortion is a critical issue. Democrats spent more than a million dollars to defeat Republican Katie Ford. And even though she told me that women should have the right to choose, Democrats relentlessly portrayed her as the vote that would restore Republicans to power in the House in Harrisburg and then take away all abortion rights in Pennsylvania.

The bottom line from this week is Philadelphia showed signs of sanity, and it’s good for our region.

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Farry’s Commuter Fairness Plan Passes Senate, But Likely to Die in House

Hoping to keep some Delaware Valley taxes local so municipalities can avoid raising real estate taxes, the state Senate passed the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank Farry.

The bill, which was approved 28-21 on Wednesday, would make the Philadelphia City Wage Tax more equitable for non-residents. But its future in the Democrat-controlled House is dicey.

Currently, the city wage tax of 3.44 percent is imposed on salaries, wages, commissions, and other compensation paid to employees working for a Philadelphia employer. Non-residents – even those who work remotely and never set foot in the city – must pay the full Philadelphia City Wage Tax if their employer is based in the city.

“Because residents who live in surrounding municipalities but work in Philadelphia pay all of their local income tax to the city rather a portion to their home municipality, the tax burden is greater for non-Philadelphia workers of those municipalities,” said Farry (R-Bucks). “My bill would keep a fair share of tax dollars local. Your local tax dollars should be used to help your community.”

With the passage of the Commuter Tax Fairness Act, the Philadelphia City Wage Tax for non-residents would remain at 3.44 percent, but 1 percent could be remitted to the workers’ home municipalities for municipalities with an earned income tax. That would put Philadelphia in line with more than 2,500 other local governments.

“As a formal municipal official, I know how difficult the financial challenges are for local governments and first responders. Because of Philadelphia’s City Wage Tax, millions of dollars are diverted from the municipalities where our residents live – resulting in higher taxes for basic services like fire, police, and emergency medical services,” Farry said.

Robert Pellegrino, Northampton Township manager, said, “Many suburban Philadelphia communities are also dealing with a lack of volunteer firefighters and are transitioning to full-time paid fire services that will require a significant financial investment in personnel and equipment.”

“While every other municipality in the commonwealth must reimburse earned income tax revenues collected from non-residents to the home municipalities of those non-residents, Philadelphia is alone in its ability to keep for itself, both the earned income tax of its residents and all of the non-residents who work in the city, without having to remit any portion or percentage of those non-resident revenues back to the home municipality of those non-residents,” said Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Philadelphia Finance Director Rob Dubow testified the loss of those funds would be devastating to the city.

“This estimated $190 million revenue loss would force the city to make painful cuts or to substantially increase taxes. Either of those actions would damage the Southeastern Pennsylvania region,” said Dubow. “For example, the amount of lost revenue would equate roughly to Philadelphia’s combined spending for commerce and economic stimulus activities, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, and the Convention Center, all of which drive growth, attract visitors, and benefit the larger region.

“The potential approximately $190 million loss in revenue is nearly double Philadelphia’s $110 million annual subsidy to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). If the city were to impose tax increases in an attempt to compensate for the lost revenue, those increases would likely drive away jobs and businesses that help generate economic activity for the entire region. Whether the city had to make these potential cuts or tax increases in one year or five years if the credits were phased in, the impact would be equally devastating. In either case, the city would need to take dramatic action just to avoid crippling deficits,” Dubow said.

John Featherman, a Philadelphia resident and Republican who ran for mayor said he believes the bill will die in the House.

“So let’s do the math,” Featherman told DVJournal. “The non-resident wage tax is 3.44 percent, and 1 percent represents roughly 29 percent of that tax. Democrats claim that this bill will take away approximately $190 million in tax revenues from Philadelphia. Republicans dispute that number and think it’s inflated. It probably is.

“The common ground is both sides know long-term changes in workplace culture — due primarily to COVID-19 changing the way we work — are likely to hurt Philly’s ability to keep that full 3.44 percent moving forward. The work-from-home trend isn’t going away, and unless the next mayor of Philadelphia can convince suburban workers to move in Philly and city workers not to move to the suburbs (good luck), Philadelphia will continue to lose its tax base.

“Likely, the slim Democratic majority in the House will defeat this bill,” said Featherman. “But it will gain life again moving forward and will pass if the GOP regains the House. The only measures Philadelphia can do to protect this job-killing tax is to change its industrial-era tax code to attract more businesses to the city (e.g., eliminate the gross receipts tax) and make Philadelphia a safer place to live and work. That’s a mighty task for Democrats to achieve in a city that’s continually in the news for violent crime.”

A former Plymouth Township councilman, Vince Gillen, said, “I’d say it’s reasonable in today’s world since many people are now working remotely or on a hybrid schedule. Personally, I’d rather my tax money come back to the community where I live as opposed to a large city.”

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BENNINGHOFF: Addressing Crime and Violence Through Smart Justice

Rising crime rates, led by spikes in violent crime, have been ravaging Pennsylvania’s major cities and are now spilling over into suburban and rural communities.

As we have continued to witness tragic news story after tragic news story of young lives ended too soon or businesses being forced to close or relocate due to preventable incidents of crime, the members of the House Republican Caucus have been working to respond with smart legislation designed to marshal state and local resources to keep Pennsylvanians safe and ensure criminals are off our streets.

Our efforts began in earnest at the beginning of the year with a package of “smart justice” bills that were aimed at providing state and local officials with more tools to combat increasing gun violence while also giving crime victims greater ability to exercise the rights afforded to them.

That first bill, House Bill 2275, would supercharge the Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force to help crack down on illegal gun crimes in Philadelphia, a place where shooting incidents and victims of gun crime have continued to increase over last year’s historic numbers. That legislation passed the House in April of this year.

Along those same lines, House Bill 2464, which was signed into law as Act 77 of 2022 in July, established standing for victims of crime to seek enforcement of the rights that have already been afforded to them in law. This law stops crime victims from being reliant on third parties to stand up for their protection and allows them to know the protections afforded to them by current law will be enforced.

As part of a truly historic budget passed in the beginning of July, House Republicans ensured providing tools to state and local law enforcement to keep Pennsylvanians safe was at the forefront of our discussions.

That budget secured $7.6 million for a joint local-state task force to focus on prosecuting illegal gun crimes and straw purchases of firearms in Philadelphia.

We included enough funding to hire to the Pennsylvania State Police to hire 200 additional State Troopers to help keep Pennsylvania’s communities safe, to provide the State Police with the latest law enforcement technology, and bolster their operation of the Pennsylvania gun background check system – one of the most comprehensive background check systems in the nation.

The budget set aside $75 million in one-time federal funds to supplement $30 million in state funding to community violence intervention and prevention initiatives. That is in addition to $1.7 million allocated for municipal police training and $50 million in federal funds to provide gun violence investigation and prosecution grants.

We also put an incredible amount of resources into getting at the root causes of crime and violence by allocating $135 million in federal relief funding for a collaborative care mental health initiative and efforts to keep our schools safe by including $100 million for school safety and security.

Contemporaneously with the passage of the budget earlier this summer, the House also took the historic step of forming the House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, which is a bipartisan committee designed to take a comprehensive look at the historic crime and violence in Philadelphia and help determine what solutions are available to ensure our laws are enforced and Pennsylvanians are kept safe.

As we reach the final days of our 2021-22 legislative session, we are continuing to run through the finish line on stopping crime and violence and working to keep Pennsylvanians safe.

Just this past week, the General Assembly concluded work on legislation sponsored by Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence) on a bill called “Markie’s Law.” This bill, named after Mark “Markie” Mason—an 8-year-old who was stabbed to death by a man paroled before the end of his sentence for violent crime—will postpone consideration of a violent inmate’s parole for two years following their minimum release date.

This legislation, awaiting Gov. Wolf’s signature, will keep children and other Pennsylvanians safe from criminals convicted of violent crimes by ensuring they stay where they belong: behind bars.

While crime and violence continue to persist, reversing the trend of out-of-control crime by providing state resources, passing tough-on-crime legislation, and using legislative authority to hold local officials accountable has been a priority of House Republicans over the last two years.

As we reach our remaining session days, we will continue to rise to the occasion to do what we can to keep Pennsylvanians safe and protect victims of crime.


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DelVal Suburbs Dump on Philly’s Mask Mandate

Philadelphia is not getting any brotherly love from its Delaware Valley neighbors over its decision to bring back its COVID-19 indoor mask mandate.

“Bucks County has not, at any point during the pandemic, implemented a community mask mandate and has no plans going forward to do so,” James O’Malley, Bucks County Deputy Director of Communications told Delaware Valley Journal.

The Philadelphia Health Department announced Monday it will require masks indoors at offices, shops, restaurants, and some outdoor public spaces beginning April 18. The decision comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, while still low, have crept past the Philadelphia City Council’s benchmark system established earlier this year.

The collar counties surrounding the city will not be joining in.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chester County government’s position has been that the decision to wear a mask is personal,” said Public Information Officer Rebecca Brain. “Likewise, the decision of a business or organization to require a mask of their customers or employees is personal, and not something that should be regulated by the county.”

Their language echoes Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Disease, who said Sunday, “We’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take in going to indoor dinners and in going to functions.”

O’Malley acknowledged the Bucks County Health Department tracks local data and consults with nearby hospitals to create mitigation recommendations but expects caseloads to rise and fall over time without the need for a mask mandate.

“I think at this point, with hospitalizations still very low and a high number of people having been vaccinated, we need to pivot away from mandates,” said Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, (R-Harleysville). “We have had two years of education on this disease and people need to make their own risk assessment and decide for themselves if they are going to get vaccinated and/or wear a mask. We also need to recognize that basic cloth masks that most individuals have are not nearly as protective as higher grade N95 masks anyway, so the effectiveness of a mask mandate would be limited at best.”

Across the river in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) concurred. “I’d be shocked if we put a mandate like that in place in New Jersey,” he said Monday.

And the opposition isn’t just in the suburbs. Philadelphia Councilmember Allan Domb (D-At-Large) told DVJournal he thinks the city is making a mistake.

“I’m listening to the CDC,” Domb said. “I’m listening to Dr. Fauci, who said masking is a decision that should be left up to the individual. I’m listening to Children’s Hospital.”

PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said Friday, “Our team advises against required masking.”

Domb fears the mask mandate will be a blow to the city’s economy just as recovery is beginning.

“It could really set back our local economy. Philadelphia is just one city. It’s one thing if the entire country does it, but they aren’t. The suburbs aren’t doing it, either. This just hurts our small businesses.”

Domb also noted that while Philadelphia’s case rate is higher than the nearby suburbs, it’s far lower than New York City and Washington, D.C., and even lower than Baltimore.

The 7-day average caseload per 100,000, according to New York Times data, in Philadelphia (170) is significantly above that of surrounding counties, including Montgomery (84), Delaware (50), Chester (54), and Bucks (45). That metric, among others, leaves some counties hedging their bets.

Critics of reinstating mask mandates, however, point to hospitalization rates. While Philadelphia has seen a spike in the daily average of positive tests over the past two weeks, up 74 percent, the hospitalization number is down over that same period by 21 percent.

Delaware and Montgomery County officials note their communities are not currently at risk using CDC metrics, but they won’t rule out the need for future mask mandates.

“The Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic data to identify trends that may require public health community measures such as indoor masking,” the county said in a statement. “Currently, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Delaware County’s community-level remains low. Therefore, an indoor mask requirement in Delaware County is not yet necessary.”

Montgomery County Public Health Administrator Christina Miller also noted the county’s “low” status, while still suggesting some people may choose to mask for the next few weeks.

“In light of the slight uptick in cases we are seeing across the Northeast, and the uptick in cases that we saw at this time last year following spring break, individuals––particularly those at higher risk for severe COVID––might consider masking up this week and the next few weeks to protect themselves and their community,” Miller said.

Domb also supports a mask recommendation, not a requirement.

“They’re talking about removing the mask mandate for airline travel the same day Philadelphia goes back to masking,” Domb observed. “I wish they would reconsider.”

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Philly issues Vax Mandate as DelVal COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Rise

COVID-19 cases are rising in the Delaware Valley and in January the City of Philadelphia will require people to show proof of vaccination to eat at restaurants indoors or go inside sports and entertainment venues.

Cases are rising despite the widespread availability of vaccines, which state and county officials encourage residents to receive.  And the state Department of Health confirmed after following the approval process by the federal government last week, that 16- and 17-year-olds in Pennsylvania are now eligible for a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. The booster is only approved after six months of completing the primary Pfizer vaccination.

Those who are 16 and 17 years old are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, while anyone 18 years and older may receive any vaccine regardless of which vaccine they originally received.

“It is great news to see booster eligibility expanded and we know providers are ready to offer more protection for Pennsylvanians,” Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said while visiting the community COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Gettysburg College recently. “The Department of Health urges all eligible Pennsylvanians who have yet to get vaccinated to do so immediately and for those people who are eligible to receive a booster shot to get that added level of protection as soon as possible.”

Pennsylvania vaccine providers, including federally qualified health centers, pediatricians, pharmacies, and primary care physicians can schedule booster shots and are ready to administer booster appointments quickly.

Johnson emphasized the importance of vaccines for those eligible, including those 5 to 11 years old.

“The pediatric vaccine is safe, and it is highly effective at protecting children against COVID-19-related illness, hospitalization, and death. I am impressed by the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are stepping up every day to get their first, second, or third dose of vaccine to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors against COVID-19,” Johnson said. “That’s why the COVID-19 vaccines are our best protection against the virus.”

Cases continue to rise in Montgomery County, which happened last year with the onset of colder weather and people sending more time indoors. However, the overall approximate numbers in Montgomery County are still significantly lower than the same time last year.

“For the second half of November 2020, the daily rate went from 250 to 325, with a peak of 350 around Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Richard Lorraine, Medical Director for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health. “This year, the same time period ranged from 180 to 240 with a peak of 260 again around Thanksgiving.”

While case numbers seem to have plateaued, there is now a seasonal increase as expected. The rate of increase is still relatively slow, and the total number of cases is noticeably lower than last year. While that is always subject to change, the decrease in the overall amplitude may be reflective of the increased population immunity due to vaccination and natural immunity.

As this cycle continues over time, Lorraine is optimistic that Montgomery County will eventually be able to make the shift from pandemic to endemic.

“Thus far, preliminary data seems to indicate that the omicron variant may be somewhat more contagious than previous strains, but it seems to be causing milder illness overall,” Lorraine said. “If this trend continues, it might indicate that we will see a more severe cold season for the winter, but hopefully not as much impact on overall COVID hospitalizations and deaths which is why we will continue to monitor the data.”

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DA Krasner Shows He’s in ‘Another World,’ Claiming No Crime Crisis in Philly

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said at a Monday press conference that the city is not in a crime crisis and people should not be fearful. The comments, which came days after Philadelphia broke its all-time murder record, have sparked heated condemnation, especially from prominent black Philadelphians.

During a back-and-forth with reporters about the city’s crime level, Krasner said, “There is not a big spike in crime. That is not true. There is also not a big spike in violent crime, either.”

Krasner noted that, according to police statistics, crimes falling into the “violent” category are down 3 percent compared to 2020 even while gun violence is up.

“It is actually striking that gun violence is so high,” Krasner said. “And yet, we don’t see violence as a general category that includes it going so high. We see it remaining at relatively normal levels, actually going down last year in many areas.”

However, after several days of negative press, Krasner sought to walk back his earlier comments and issued a statement Thursday, in part blaming the media for the kerfuffle.

“I know that some inarticulate things I said earlier this week have offended people,” said Krasner. “The message conveyed through media sound bites is not at all what I meant. Complete answers based on data aimed at solutions to gun violence will be edited down to sound bites. It’s my job to make sure even those sound bites are careful. As someone whose strong support is owed in part to the fact that I don’t communicate or make decisions like a career politician, it is my obligation to do better.”

A review of the police data does show rapes are down by 11 percent and assaults are down by 7 percent. FBI data reveals those drops to be the continuation of a years-long downward trend — rape has declined since 2013 and assault has head downward since 2018 after being flat since 2014.

Police data show, on the other hand, that murders are up 13 percent compared to this time last year, and robberies involving guns are up about 24 percent — both continuing notable spikes in recent years. Meanwhile, data from the DA’s office does not show a corresponding increase in prosecutions or convictions in either category.

In fact, the total number of cases in all categories dismissed or withdrawn by the DA’s office has spiked from 50 percent in 2015 to 73 percent this year, meaning nearly three out of four cases handled by Krasner’s office are not fully prosecuted.

This trend is even more pronounced when looking at violent crimes. Dismissed or withdrawn homicide cases have nearly tripled compared to 2015. Dismissed or withdrawn non-fatal shooting cases have sextupled compared to 2015. And dismissed or withdrawn gun robbery case data reveal a downward cliff in prosecution since Krasner took office.

Total gun robbery cases handled by the DA’s office have dropped 50 percent, from the 700s in 2015 to 2018 to a mere 366 this year. Of this total, the number of dismissed or withdrawn gun robbery cases has only dropped 19 percent compared to 2015. Meaning, while fewer cases are handled a higher percentage of those fewer cases end up not fully prosecuted.

Yet, Krasner has stood firm against mounting accusations that the city is letting criminals go free, including by one man who went on a 26-day hunger strike to protest what he sees as a government that has “given up.”

“We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness,” Krasner said.

But some people from the suburbs are reluctant to chance shopping, going out to eat or to the theater in the city nowadays. Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale and Republican candidate for governor, says the violence is keeping people from visiting the city.

“Philadelphia’s culture of violence is certainly deterring people from flowing into the city,” said Gale. “Suburban families and tourists have little interest in becoming a statistic.”

Gail Hardie Ford,  who lives in Upper Providence, told Delaware Valley Journal, “I worked in the city for years. Between violence and draconian Covid mandates, I no longer wish to visit.”

Lynn Brown, a Cheltenham resident, was planning to go shopping at the Christmas Village in Love Park this weekend but after hearing reports about increasing crime she is uncertain.

“I still haven’t made up my mind,” said Brown. “I want to but somebody else at work said something (about the crime). I’m still on the fence.”

“DA Larry Krasner is living in another world if he thinks that after a record 521 homicides this year, people should feel safe in Philadelphia,” said Jabari Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, an association of businesses in West Philadelphia.

“Businesses in high crime neighborhoods typically shut down before nightfall, foregoing thousands of dollars in daily revenue because of crime. It also affects businesses being able to hire, especially those that rely on a younger workforce, because they have trouble convincing parents of young people that it’s safe to work there.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter wrote an editorial for The Philadelphia Inquirer also condemning Krasner’s comments.

“I have to wonder what kind of messed up world of White wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost, many of them Black and brown, while he advances his own national profile as a progressive district attorney.”

Krasner noted during the Monday press conference that his office is actively pursuing so-called “straw purchases” of guns to combat the rise of gun violence.

“It’s people who are able to buy guns legally purchasing those guns and then turning around and selling them to those who cannot buy them, to people who have felonies or who otherwise are not permitted,” he said.

This focus on guns seems to be supported by other city and state Democratic leaders.

Gov. Tom Wolf recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed citizens who want to legally carry a gun to do so without seeking government approval first.

“I support many public policy proposals that would help solve this urgent issue [gun violence], including safe storage legislation, extreme risk protection orders, enhanced reporting requirements for lost or stolen guns, and closing gaps in the background check system,” Wolf said in a news release on the veto.

On Nov. 24, the day the city hit 500 murders, Mayor Jim Kenney put much of the blame on the state General Assembly for not allowing the city to pass its own gun control legislation.

“There are people making money selling these guns, making these guns and the legislature, not the people behind me, don’t care,” Kenney said. “They don’t care how many people get killed.”

But Jason Gottesman, press secretary to the Republican state House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, disagrees with that accusation.

“While the Philadelphia Mayor and District Attorney claim the state has not provided the tools necessary to enforce firearm violations and illegal sales in the city, the opposite has been true and Act 58 of 2019 is a perfect example of the work we have done,” Gottesman said in an email announcing an effort by Rep. Martina White (R – Philadelphia) and Craig Williams (R- Delaware/Chester) to reauthorize that act.

Act 58 gave the state Attorney General the authority to prosecute gun law violations, including illegal sales and straw purchases in Philadelphia.

“This move was necessary because it was clear that the District Attorney and Mayor of Philadelphia have no interest in prosecuting gun crimes,” said Gottesman.


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