State Rep. Thomas Murt calls for greater action against gun violence.
By State Rep. Thomas Murt
The epidemic of gun violence is pleading for swift action by policymakers. Sadly, the pace of these badly needed reforms as manifested thus far is simply too slow. Our state does not have the luxury of waiting for more gun violence before meaningful measures are taken. At the very least, we should immediately expand existing programs that work and that have been effective in addressing gun violence. The Joint Local-State Firearm Task Force is one of these programs.
The Joint Local-State Firearm Task Force or the Gun Violence Task Force has been a very successful tool in addressing gun violence in Philadelphia and needs to be further expanded throughout Pennsylvania. I recently went on patrol with agents from the attorney general’s office who are assigned to the Gun Violence Task Force. I learned a great deal about their mission and the excellent work they do in taking illegal guns off the street and in addressing gun violence.
Law enforcement professionals readily confirm that most firearms used by criminals are obtained illegally. Most of these weapons were either stolen or straw purchased. Straw purchasers legally buy guns for people who can’t, usually because they have a record of arrests and convictions that prevent them from legally purchasing a gun.
Essentially, the mission of the Gun Violence Task Force is to aggressively investigate and prosecute firearm trafficking, straw purchase of firearms, the movement of illegal guns and violent gun crime. The task force has been very successful in taking illegal guns off the street, and thus in saving lives.
The task force, limited in jurisdiction only to Philadelphia, was created by the Legislature in 2006. The Task Force was started as a joint effort by the district attorney’s office and the Office of the Attorney General. The task force is comprised of seasoned investigators, police officers, criminal analysts and experienced assistant district attorneys. The effectiveness of the task force is well known and respected.
In terms of scope, the task force handles violations of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, which provides instant access to background records on an individual to determine if the person is eligible to acquire a firearm or license to carry a firearm. Federally licensed firearms sellers must perform this check before making a sale of a firearm. Violations are felony offenses, investigated and prosecuted by the task force.
Perhaps the most important mission of the task force is handling straw purchases of firearms. This is a felony. If you straw purchase two or more guns for someone else, you face a five- to 10-year mandatory state sentence under the Brad Fox Law sentencing rules.
The Gun Violence Task Force investigates street sales of firearms, illegal lending and other transfers of guns that do not comply with Pennsylvania and federal laws.
In addition to firearms violations, the task force investigates and prosecutes cases where firearms are used in violent crimes throughout Philadelphia. In partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Gun Violence Task Force has been able to arrest individuals responsible for murders, shootings and gunpoint robberies.
It is important that we enact new policies that will get illegal guns off the streets, but it is equally important that we continue and strengthen programs that work and have proven to be successful in the struggle to address gun violence. The Joint Local-State Firearm Task Force is one of these programs. ••