Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board

Editorial: The shooting at Roxborough High and the absurd state law that limits local gun safety measures

It should come as no surprise that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's executive order banning guns and other deadly weapons at city recreation centers and playgrounds did nothing to prevent a 14-year-old boy from getting murdered Tuesday after a football scrimmage outside Roxborough High School.

While Kenney's executive order — which was announced hours before the shooting — was well intended, it underscores the meager gun safety tools public officials have in a country (and state) that has been hijacked by the gun lobby and a perverted interpretation of the Second Amendment. As a result, Philadelphians are left defenseless by Pennsylvania's absurd preemption law that prevents local governments from implementing their own gun safety measures.

At the federal level, mostly Republican lawmakers have refused for decades to implement basic gun safety measures, while conservatives on the Supreme Court have placed gun rights above human life.

Kenney's executive order was in response to a Department of Parks and Recreation worker who was killed by a stray bullet while sweeping outside of a center earlier this month. The ink was barely dry on the order when a spokesperson for the corrupt National Rifle Association called it "illegitimate."

Hours later, a 14-year-old boy was killed and four other teens were shot as they were ambushed while walking off a football field to their school bus. It was the 23rd shooting death of a child and the 400th murder in Philadelphia this year, leaving the city on pace to match last year's record of 562 homicides.

Children have been shot in barbershops, on porch stoops, and in their own bedrooms in Philadelphia this year.

Philadelphia has tried numerous times to pass gun safety measures, only to be stopped by the state. Most recently, the city filed a lawsuit challenging the state's firearm preemption statutes, which say a local municipality cannot enact its own gun laws. The city argued the GOP-controlled General Assembly has violated the right to life and liberty enshrined in the state constitution by declining to pass gun safety measures.

But in May, a Pennsylvania appeals court rejected the lawsuit. The majority Republican court panel voted 3-2 along party lines. The court ruling — and the continued inaction by the General Assembly — came despite polls that show the majority of Pennsylvanians want stronger gun laws.

Despite the rise in gun violence, roadblocks are everywhere when it comes to gun safety. More than 40 other states have preemption laws similar to Pennsylvania.

In June, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill that was hailed as the most significant measure passed in three decades. While the law will help save lives, it is hardly a game changer.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has paved the way for the return to frontier lawlessness when it comes to guns. In June, the court struck down a New York law that had been in place for more than 100 years that placed strict limits on carrying guns in public. The 6-3 ruling by the conservative majority was expected to spark legal challenges in other states and give Americans broad rights to carry guns virtually anywhere.

The ruling builds on the court's 5-4 landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that, for the first time, said the Second Amendment "protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia." The idea that the Second Amendment extends to individuals is a concept that began in the 1980s during the Reagan administration and was aided and abetted by the political rise of the NRA.

Former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, a conservative, called the concept of an individual right to bear arms a "fraud." Former Justice John Paul Stevens, another conservative, said the Heller decision was the court's "most clearly incorrect" ruling of his long tenure.

In 2018, Stevens said the Second Amendment should be repealed. That is not happening anytime soon, but gun safety should be treated as a public health crisis and regulated like cars, where owners are required to get licenses, training, and gun locks. But that won't change until voters hold pro-gun lawmakers accountable.

Until then, there will be more and more senseless shooting deaths.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.