While the debate on gun control has reached a stalemate on Capitol Hill, the discussion continues strongly here on campus.
As part of Penn Democrats’ Gun Control Action Week, Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann spoke in Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags last night.
College freshman and Penn Dems Legislative Director Sean Foley said he hoped the event would provide “a more personal perspective on gun violence,” explaining that while “the national discussion is usually about politicians and politics … the police officers have direct involvement.”
Last night’s event was particularly relevant following the Senate’s failure yesterday to pass a bill that would require prospective gun owners to undergo background checks before they could buy a firearm.
Nevertheless, College sophomore and Penn Dems Secretary Tara Kutzbach said that “people are still talking about [events like] Sandy Hook … this same kind of legislation will be put up again.”
Nutter, who plays a significant role in the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, expressed clear frustration with both the Senate’s vote and the state of gun control efforts in the United States.
At the event, he proposed three major changes: a ban on assault weapons, a limit on the capacity of magazines and background checks.
These measures, he added, would allow law-abiding citizens to continue buying and owning guns, while hopefully lowering gun-related deaths.
Nutter said the prevalence of guns that can shoot many bullets very quickly have led to higher fatality rates.
“If you’re shot with three or four bullets, you may well survive … if you’re hit eight, 10, 12 times, you’re much more likely to just bleed to death,” he added.
For his part, Ramsey emphasized that elected officials voting on gun control are not those most directly affected by their decisions.
“You can’t take a gun into government buildings … they live in this bubble,” he said. However, many people “don’t have that privilege … there are mothers putting their babies to sleep in bathtubs because they’re afraid a bullet’s going to fly through the window.”
Finally, McCann discussed upcoming gun legislation.
This spring, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will vote to impose a two-year minimum sentence for carrying an illegal gun in Philadelphia — an offense which now is generally punishable by five to six months of probation.
McCann explained that New York City law imposes a minimum sentence of three and a half years for illegal gun possession. He noted also that New York, despite having a population seven times larger, has fewer murders by handgun annually than Philadelphia.
“If you have a belief that ‘if I get stopped with this gun, I’m not going home tonight and I’m not going home for two years,’ there’s going to be a lot fewer homicides,” he said.
Nutter concluded that in his opinion, the debate on gun legislation is not about Second Amendment rights or “coming for” anyone’s guns.
“This isn’t a debate about gun control, this is about safety,” he said. “You have a right to swing your arm as much as you want until it comes into contact with my face. With rights also comes responsibility.”