New law allowing state prosecution of city gun cases erupts in controversy

State Reps. Martina White and Jared Solomon, among others, last month sought to pass “concurrent jurisdiction” legislation that would have given Attorney General Josh Shapiro the ability to prosecute cases involving the sale, purchase or possession of an illegal gun.

The measure, which would have included all counties in the state, did not move forward.

So, White proposed an amendment to a law enforcement-related bill that would have given Shapiro concurrent jurisdiction just in Philadelphia.

That amendment passed the Senate unanimously and by a 194-3 vote in the House of Representatives. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill on July 2, and seemed pleased by White’s amendment.

“Doing it in one part of the state is better than doing nothing at all,” he told the Capital-Star.

State Rep. Martina White

Now, though, some Democrats are crying foul. Sen. Vincent Hughes announced plans to introduce legislation that would repeal the concurrent jurisdiction given to the attorney general when the legislature goes back to work in September.

However, that bill would need at least some House and Senate Republican votes to pass, and any Democrats who vote for it would be acknowledging they never read the White amendment. And Wolf would have to sign it.

Krasner strongly opposes the amendment.

White said the concurrent jurisdiction should remain.

“It’s a way for us to provide additional resources for the city,” she said.

Shapiro does not plan to take advantage of his new power. The Intercept reported on his appearance on Friday at the Netroots Nation conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. After being badgered by activists, he said he’d be fine if the amendment were repealed.

White described the amendment as a two-year pilot program.

“Members knew exactly what they were voting for,” she said. “Everybody felt it was a good opportunity for the state to have more resources and tools to help address this issue. It was a bipartisan effort from the beginning to curb gun violence plaguing the city. It’s a shame to see so many people backing away from this.”

White is happy that the recently passed state budget gives $2.5 million for a gun violence task force that will help Philadelphia. She credits Philadelphia police with doing a good job making arrests in illegal gun cases, and wants Krasner to put up tough prosecutions of those crimes. The ultimate goal, she said, is to lower the city’s rising homicide rate. ••