Gun owners across the commonwealth are outraged by Gov. Tom Wolf’s and Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s continued scapegoating of firearms as the cause of violence in Philadelphia. As the Pennsylvania director of Gun Owners of America, an organization dedicated to gun ownership, I hear from other gun owners regularly. Let me walk you through our thinking.
Wolf, Shapiro, and Democratic allies in the General Assembly are pushing no less than six bills — SB 413, SB 414, HB 271, HB 414, HB 1315, and HB 1966 — aimed at making homemade firearms illegal. These bills would require pieces of metal and plastic to be regulated as firearms.
Philadelphia Democrats and the attorney general frequently rant about the number of homemade firearms that are used for crime in Philadelphia. With all this focus on what they incorrectly call “ghost guns,” you’d think homemade firearms are used in all crimes in Philly. But, according to a notice issued by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, from 2016 through 2020 less than 2% of the firearms used in homicides or attempted homicides nationwide were homemade.
The cause of the skyrocketing violence in Philadelphia isn’t homemade firearms. It’s not even commercially produced firearms. No, a major cause of the increased violence in Philadelphia is an unwillingness to prosecute criminals, and the culprit is District Attorney Larry Krasner, who was first elected in 2017.
According to an analysis published in this paper, during Krasner’s tenure, arrests for illegal gun possession have nearly tripled, but conviction rates have fallen from 63% in 2017 to 49% in 2019. It doesn’t take a criminologist to figure out that if you don’t prosecute criminals, you’ll get more crime.
How bad is Philly crime under Krasner? Shootings and fatal shootings have gone up every year since his election. Last year saw the highest number of homicides in the city’s history, many not using any kind of firearm. Carjackings have more than tripled since 2019, topping out at over 720 last year.
But who did Philadelphia voters elect again as their district attorney? Krasner won with 70% of the vote, ensuring that the city will continue its dangerous trajectory. Still, Krasner doesn’t think there’s a problem, unbelievably claiming — before he was shamed into walking it back — that “we don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.” It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz who said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
And, just like the phony wizard, Philadelphia Democrats want to distract you with smoke and mirrors, rather than proposing real solutions that address the prosecution of criminals, drug trafficking, and gang violence. They don’t want to roll up their sleeves and deal with the root causes of violence in Philly. It’s much easier to blame firearms and invent scary new terms like “ghost guns” that deflect attention from the real reasons Philadelphians are suffering.
All the gun control schemes they propose will do nothing more than disarm the people who need protection the most — law-abiding citizens who live in the most dangerous areas of the city. Criminals don’t obey gun laws. They don’t obey laws at all; that’s what makes them criminals.
Pushing for more gun control will only prevent law-abiding citizens from accessing the firearms they need for self-defense. Instead of blaming firearms, homemade guns, and law-abiding firearms owners, Philadelphia needs to clean up its own act by prosecuting violent criminals and addressing the underlying causes of violence.
Val Finnell is the Pennsylvania director of Gun Owners of America.