Smart Guns Aren’t for Sale in America Because of a New Jersey Law

Split photo: Chris Christie, New Jersey governor, and a smart gun developed by NJIT

Christie photo by Bob Jagendorf (license); smart gun prototype photo via of New Jersey Institute of Technology

Chris Christie yesterday vetoed a bill that would have required New Jersey gun dealers to carry at least one “smart gun” for sale. Christie used a pocket veto, which means the Democratic legislature cannot override it.

Smart guns have been developed by several different sources, but are not yet for sale in the U.S. A smart gun can only be fired by an authorized user (though some smart gun tech has a way for authorized users to override that and allow anyone to fire it). The New Jersey Institute of Technology’s smart gun prototype uses “dynamic grip” technology to prevent anyone else from firing it. NJIT’s smart-gun project was begun at the behest of the state, but was eventually killed.

The gun-lobby says it’s agnostic to smart gun tech, but that’s a lie: The CEO of Colt’s Manufacturing Company was dropped after backlash to the company’s smart gun prototype; the NRA famously boycotted Smith & Wesson after it agreed to develop smart gun technology as part of a deal with the Bill Clinton administration. Some people go even further: A Maryland gun dealer, who planned to sell a new smart gun, said he received death threats. (Some death threats are empty, but these presumably came from people with guns.) Read more »

You Can Buy an AR-15 in Philadelphia in About 5 Minutes

Photo of an AR-15. (iStock)

Photo of an AR-15. (iStock)

The vast majority of people who own guns use them in a perfectly legal and responsible manner, but folks who seek to maim and murder in large numbers seem to have an affinity for one particular type of weapon: the AR-15. Orlando shooter Omar Mateen selected an AR-15 to slaughter 49 people and injure dozens more inside a gay club over the weekend, joining the list of AR-15-loyal mass killers James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Chris Harper-Mercer, and husband-and-wife terrorist team Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. And thanks to the National Rifle Association, buying an AR-15 in Pennsylvania couldn’t be easier. Read more »

Two Off-Duty Philly Police Officers Involved in Shootings Tuesday

Lynel Henry and Ricky Mosley are charged with burglary of a Philadelphia Police officer's home.

Lynel Henry and Ricky Mosley are charged with burglary of a Philadelphia Police officer’s home.

Two off-duty police officers fired their weapons at suspects in unrelated incidents Tuesday.

The first incident occurred at 1:12 p.m. in an off-duty police officer’s home; he entered his Wellington Street residence and noticed that some items were in disarray – the TV was missing, the rear window was open, and the rear kitchen door was slightly open. After hearing movement and voices in the basement, the 12th-district officer said he approached the stairs, drew his weapon and said “police.”

At that point Rick Mosley, also known as Ameen Mosley, allegedly charged toward the officer with a “dark metal object” in his hand, the off-duty officer said.

The officer, an eight-year veteran of the police department, said he shot once at Mosley, who fell down the steps. Read more »

A Second-Grader Brought a Loaded Glock to School Today | RonBailey | RonBailey

A second grade student at Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter found a surprise in his book bag when he got to school this morning: a fully-loaded Glock.

A police source told Philadelphia magazine that a relative allegedly stuck the weapon in the little boy’s bag for reasons that are thus far unclear. The child didn’t realize the weapon was lurking in his school bag until he got into his classroom.  Read more »

Shrine to Victims of Illegally Purchased Guns Pops Up in South Philly

Photo | Brian Thomas

Photo | Brian Thomas

Hanging on a fence around a parking lot right outside the Ellsworth-Federal stop on the Broad Street Line, more than 50 t-shirts flap in the wind. They bear the names of victims of gun violence, along with their ages and the date of their death. The memorial, organized by the neighboring National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia and a group called Heeding God’s Call, focuses specifically on those who died from illegally purchased firearms. The groups will hold a dedication ceremony on May 25th at 12:30 p.m. at the site.   Read more »

Cops: “Potential Tragedy” Averted at Bonner & Prendergast


When a dozen or so Upper Darby police officers bounded into Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High School on Wednesday morning, a handful of students knew they were officially screwed.

Four male students and one female student ended up in handcuffs after cops found a handgun, drugs and bullets during a search of the building — an eyebrow-raising episode from a school that usually doesn’t make headlines for police activity. “We very seldom get called there,” said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. “Obviously, they have problems like everyone else, but they must handle that stuff internally.”

So what the hell happened?  Read more »

Activist: Expel Penns Grove Middle Schooler Over Violent Racial Threats

Civil rights activist Walter Hudson (Photo courtesy National Awareness Alliance)

Civil rights activist Walter Hudson in October 2015 (Photo courtesy National Awareness Alliance)

The country has endured far too many school shootings in its recent past, so it’s not surprising that alleged threats of violence made among students at Penns Grove Middle School in New Jersey have spurred a commotion. The situation caught the attention of civil rights activist, founder of the National Awareness Alliance, and former member of the Penns Grove-Carneys Point school board Walter Hudson.

On Monday afternoon, Hudson held a press conference at the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional District Building. He and some outraged parents protested the school district’s handling of the situation. In an open letter to Superintendent of Schools Zenaida Cobian, Hudson says that a student, who is white, allegedly “threatened to shoot several students and referred to African-American students” with racial slurs. The NAA, Hudson’s organization, says it strives to fight racial discrimination and social injustice. (Hudson has a complicated relationship with Penns Grove.)

Hudson told Philly Mag that the student in question recently followed three African-American students on their walk home from school, threatening to shoot them and using racial slurs. The parents of the students who say they were threatened reportedly did not contact police.

However, this story’s roots go back approximately three years. The student who is alleged to have made the threats appeared in a Facebook photo uploaded by his father which showed the child holding what appears to be an assault rifle. The controversial photo drew national scrutiny at the time.  Read more »

Why I Carry a Gun

Peter Breslow at Philly Mag’s offices on February 19th. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Peter Breslow at Philly Mag’s offices on February 19th. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

It’s noon on a busy Friday in Rittenhouse Square, and I’m seated along the inside window at Rouge, one my favorite lunch spots in my city. Things feel very different today. It’s the first time I’m carrying a gun, and I’m a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. Besides having a bulge in my right front jeans pocket that I’m afraid everyone can see, I find myself scanning the room as I wonder who else could be armed. I also wonder: If the unthinkable happened here, where could I take cover? And how would I react?

That might sound a bit paranoid, given the likelihood of a violent event at a tony Center City bistro that sells $18 burgers. I never thought I’d become a “gun person.” To me, the culture of buying and shooting guns always seemed stupid. I’m a local guy through and through — grew up in the Northeast, graduated from Cheltenham High — and have spent most of my career in public relations and marketing. (You may know my mother, Philadelphia PR legend Tina Breslow.) Today, I’m the married father of a 17-year-old high-school junior. We live in Upper Gwynedd, but I’m in the city frequently to represent my clients, who include chefs, restaurateurs, real estate developers and fashion brands. I travel in some elite circles, but I’m also a guy’s guy — hockey dad, sports fan, craft beer lover, cheesesteak eater, bullshit-caller. While I support the Second Amendment in general, I never imagined exercising my right to own a gun. Or that, like a wallet or cell phone, I’d want to carry it with me at all times. Read more »

Trends: Gun Ownership in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

Stories like Peter Breslow’s aren’t uncommon. As the newly initiated gun owner himself recently learned, mass shootings like the ones in Paris and San Bernardino have a history of spooking Americans into buying guns — and that seems to apply in Pennsylvania as much as anywhere else.

Pennsylvanian interest in concealed-carry permits spiked last December after attacks in California and Paris, mirroring a national trend.

Officials at sheriff’s offices across the greater Delaware Valley say that following those attacks, gun license application numbers soared. In Chester County, Sheriff Carolyn Welsh saw them double after the shootings in Paris, and once tragedy struck in San Bernardino, they really took off — from about 200 applications a week to between 60 and 80 a day.

Gun Permits Issued in Philadelphia, 2004–2014

Gun Permits Issued in Pennsylvania, 2004–2014

Earlier this winter, WNEP and the Morning Call found similar trends upstate in Lehigh and Lackawanna counties. “You never know who’s going to do something, so you have to be prepared,” one Scranton resident told WNEP, after waiting a mere 10 minutes required to get his permit.

There’s another kind of fear that’s been driving firearm sales in recent years — paranoia about President Obama. The thinking goes that if the commander-in-chief is going to enact gun control legislation, it’s best to stock up while the getting is good. In Philadelphia, elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and across the country, sales have climbed during Obama’s time in office, and they’ve spiked when he’s tried to advance gun restrictions.

Smith & Wesson manufactured Peter Breslow’s gun. The company’s stock price swelled to an all-time high last month following the shooting in San Bernardino and Obama’s announcements about new gun restrictions. Chart courtesy of Bloomberg.

Smith & Wesson manufactured Peter Breslow’s gun. The company’s stock price swelled to an all-time high last month following the shooting in San Bernardino and Obama’s announcements about new gun restrictions. Chart courtesy of Bloomberg.

Guns Sold or Transferred in Philadelphia, 2004–2014

Guns Sold or Transferred in Pennsylvania, 2004–2014

NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide says that Philly-area residents should consider owning guns if they’re worried about the security of their homes, families, or businesses (in other words, he says, “If they feel there’s need for self-protection”), but Shira Goodman, executive director of advocacy group CeaseFirePA, begs to differ.

“It does happen, that people interrupt crimes,” she says. “But it doesn’t happen that much.”

The numbers, it turns out, come down on Goodman’s side: last summer, a Washington Post analysis found that for every criminal killed in self-defense, 34 innocents die.

The truth is that despite protests to the contrary, more guns really do mean more gun violence — and that’s according to years of research. Studies have shown that an increase in guns correlates with an increase in homicides, and with an increase in suicides. While mass shootings are harrowing events that demand serious attention, the disproportionate media coverage that they have received threatens to muddle the truth, which is that the average American is much more likely to die from a gun-related suicide than from a gun-related homicide.

In some ways, Pennsylvania is ahead of other states when it comes to gun safety legislation. We have our own state-run background check system, so when a resident buys a gun, he or she is processed not only by the local system, but also by the national one run by the FBI. And the Keystone State requires that all handgun sales be accompanied by a background check, which isn’t the case in some states.

But we can also buy firearms here without a license, registration, or training, and Pennsylvania does not limit how many guns we can buy. Our neighbors New Jersey, Delaware, and New York all have more restrictive gun laws than we do.

Goodman urges Philadelphians to speak with their local representatives about gun legislation. “Let’s have rules that protect us,” she says. “Just like you have the right to carry that gun, I want the right to be safe.”

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