The United States Senate failed to pass a bipartisan bill calling for stricter background checks on gun sales, a measure that is seen as a key component of legislation in the debate for stronger gun control laws in general.
By a vote of 54-46, opponents of the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act managed to block the measure; falling six votes short of the required 60 votes. The proposal, crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) would have expanded background checks for firearm sales to include gun shows and the Internet. Supporters of the bill saw it as a major step forward, particularly because it was a bipartisan measure. Toomey said that although the vote didn’t go as he had hoped, he would be moving on to other equally important issues.
“I did what I thought was the right thing for our country. I sought out a compromise position that I thought could move the ball forward on an important matter of public safety,” Toomey said. “My only regret is that our amendment did not pass. It’s not the outcome I hoped for, but the Senate has spoken on the subject, and it’s time to move on. We have a lot of other very important issues to deal with such as getting the economy back on track, dealing with the debt ceiling and creating more jobs for Pennsylvanians.”
But other Pennsylvanians were incensed that the Senate failed to pass the measure. District Attorney Seth Williams said he was disgusted with the outcome.
“This was something that clearly the American people wanted, and the Senate failed to do the will of the people. It’s embarrassing and disgraceful and almost criminal that the United States Senate would fail to pass legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and those who commit acts of domestic violence. That’s common sense and what we should be doing. Basically forty senators succumbed to an extreme fringe of the American population. If we can’t agree to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, what can we agree on?”
Law enforcement officials say that guns, specifically illegal guns in the hands of criminals, fuels most of the deadly violence in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and other major cities.
“The Senate’s failure to act on this, in my opinion is an act of supreme cowardice,” said former Court of Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes. “In America you have to have a license to drive; when you’re born you get a Social Security number. Although this bill did not require gun owners to register would it have been so bad if it did? The people who voted to block this have no respect for their constituents and I think all of them who voted against it will be voted out of office in the next election. You have to ask yourself what or who are they afraid of? The people of the United States wanted this.”
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he has virtually no remaining confidence in the Senate or in Congress as a result of the vote.
“They passed nothing and I think it’s absolutely pitiful. There’s just no other way to put it. The bill didn’t even call for universal background checks and they still refused to pass it. They even turned down a measure calling for stronger sentencing for straw purchasers. This makes no sense at all,” Ramsey said. “The bill that came to the floor was a watered-down version and we thought it had a good chance of passing. Congress has become useless and this is just embarassing. I think they’re just in their own little worlds and don’t give a damn. We lose 30 to 35 people every day to gun gun violence across the country but if the slaughter of babies didn’t move them into action, nothing will. This is beyond shameful.”
Democratic Senator Bob Casey, a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights, and who has received a B plus rating by the National Rifle Association, also expressed his disappointment in the way the Senate voted.
“I was very disappointed that the Senate today chose to reject sensible gun legislation to keep our children and communities safe from violent criminals and terrorists,” Casey said, “Like many Americans, after Sandy Hook, I was horrified by how those children died - shot at close range with a high-powered rifle with each child hit as many as 11 times. I was also haunted by what could have happened if the killer had more time - he was prepared to slaughter hundreds of children. As members of the U.S Senate, we must ask: have I done enough to reduce the likelihood that this never happens again? We must do more to protect our kids. I am a strong defender of the Second Amendment. Pennsylvania has a rich tradition of hunting and I believe strongly that people should be able have guns for protection, sporting and collection. But, I also believe we need sensible gun legislation that will help to prevent these tragedies. This should not be the end of the road. We owe it to our children to redouble our efforts to do everything in our power to prevent another tragedy.”
The National Rifle Association released a statement saying that the Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal would have criminalized honest citizens.
“The misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” the statement said. “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools. The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.”
Homicide detectives said they have arrested a suspect in the case of a shooting that left an Overbrook High School student dead on an athletic field across the street from the school last Thursday.
As of Tribune press time, the name of the suspect had not been released because the investigation is still continuing.
On April 11, Bernard Scott, 17, from the 1800 block of Georges Lane was an innocent bystander when two young Black males began shooting at one another following a fistfight at the Tustin Playground just before 4 p.m. A passing motorist saw Scott collapse on the street and rushed him to Lankenau Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead by physicians at 7:07 p.m.
Homicide detectives said the deadly shooting happened across the street from Overbrook High School at 59th Street and Lancaster Avenue. Witnesses told police that several shots were fired by two teens. Besides Scott, a 17-year-old was wounded in the right hip and, an 18-year old suffered a graze wound to the back. Both were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The 18-year-old, whose description matched that of one of the shooters and whose name has still not been released by police was being questioned by investigators. Police are also questioning a 20-year old Black male in connection with the shooting.
Student arrested for bringing loaded gun to school
Philadelphia police said that on Wednesday, April 17, 18-year-old Shaheed Whack from the 200 block of West Clarkson Avenue was arrested after he attempted to enter Fells High School at 5700 Langdon Ave. with a loaded .38-caliber revolver. Whack is charged with weapons and related offenses.
Investigators said Whack allegedly tried unsuccessfully to get the weapon, which was inside his book bag, past the metal detectors and x-ray machine. When an alarm was sounded, he fled the building but was apprehended by police a few minutes later.
Arrest made in Rhawnhurst sexual assault
With help from the community the Philadelphia Police Department arrested a suspect who allegedly sexually assaulted an elderly woman in the city’s Rhawnhurst section.
On April 11 at 12:06 a.m. the 63-year-old female was inside her residence when an unknown male entered hand began sexually assaulting her. When the victim began to struggle, he produced a hammer and struck her several times in the head. The victim began screaming and the suspect fled in a 1991-1994 white two-door Toyota Celica. On April 16, surveillance video was released to local news stations. Soon after it was aired, several anonymous tips were received by investigators.
On April 17, at 5:50 p.m., officers observed a male fitting the suspect’s description operating a white Toyota Celica and he was stopped. Abraham Cordova, 26, from the 7200 block of Horrocks Street, was identified as the suspect. Cordova is charged with attempted murder, attempted rape, aggravated assault and related offenses.
The trial of Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor accused of killing one patient and seven infants, entered its fifth week Monday, and the prosecutors continue to outline their case against the defendant.
Co-defendant Eileen O’Neill has been charged with billing as a doctor and participating in a corrupt organization. Three former associates of Gosnell have pleaded guilty and have testified against him. The details are gruesome and horrific, with former associates describing how Gosnell allegedly severed the spines of living babies. Gosnell allegedly induced labor in the mothers and then performed illegal late term abortions.
A former employee, Ashley Baldwin, 22, testified last week, telling jurors that at the age of 15 she began working at the Women’s Medical Society, assisting with abortions and administering intravenous drugs. Baldwin told the court that on at least two occasions she saw aborted babies move after the procedure. In one case she explained she saw the chest moving. Gosnell dismissed the movements as involuntary responses. Gosnell is charged in the deaths of seven babies and the 2009 overdose death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41. Authorities allege the babies were killed using scissors – a procedure Gosnell called “snipping.”
Equally disturbing are the allegations that Gosnell treated white patients with greater care than his poor minority patients. He personally met with them and administered any medications himself. The reason for this, Gosnell explained to his staff, was “that’s the way it is.” Prosecutors allege that the defendant performed as many as 1,000 abortions a year, charging from several hundred dollars for an early abortion to several thousand for a three-day, late-term procedure. Prosecutors also said that Gosnell made millions over the years the Women’s Medical Society was in operation.
Another former employee, Stephen Massof, described performing ultrasounds, administering drugs and assisting with abortions. He has pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree murder. Massof, an unlicensed doctor, testified that Gosnell taught him to cut the necks of babies after they were born.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon argues that no babies were born alive at the clinic and that Mongar died of unforeseen complications connected with the anesthesia
But although prosecutors contend that the Gosnell case is about murder and not abortion, pro-life advocates argue that the Gosnell case is specifically about the medical procedure.
In Delaware, allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions are being investigated in connection with Planned Parenthood of Delaware. Two former nurses complained about physicians not wearing gloves and procedure tables and medical instruments not being properly cleaned. Unlike Pennsylvania, in Delaware, abortion clinics are not subject to routine inspections.
“If nothing else, this case will bring greater discussion about abortion among African Americans. This case is not just the babies Gosnell is accused of murdering but the numerous women he victimized who will never be known,” said Rev. Dr. Clenard H. Childress Jr., founder of the Pro-life website Blackgenocide.org. “Gosnell operated with impunity, he feared no one coming through his doors and that indicates someone was paid off – plain and simple. This isn’t just a political issue; this is a crime against humanity. Gosnell is not just a rare case; I believe it is the tip of a very large iceberg. Abortion would not be legal if it weren’t lucrative and 78 percent of abortion clinics are in poor Black neighborhoods – what does that tell you?”
According to the Center for Disease Control there were 784,507 legal abortions performed in America in 2009. The abortion rate for 2009 was 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and the abortion ratio was 227 abortions per 1,000 live births. Women in their twenties accounted for the majority of abortions in 2009 and throughout the period of analysis. The majority of abortions in 2009 took place early in gestation.
Statistics provided from the Guttmacher Institute showed that the abortion rate decreased 8 percent between 2000 and 2008, but abortion increased 18 percent among poor women, while decreasing 28 percent among higher-income women. Their analysis also showed that nine in 10 abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and 58 percent of the patients are in their twenties.
“One reason why this case is being seen solely as a murder case is the protection that was provided to Gosnell and to the abortion industry as well,” said Michael Geer, President of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “It’s hard to call this criminal when it’s legal to do inside the womb what Gosnell did outside the womb; we’re talking about a few inches of geography. We as a society would rather not have this discussion. This case, as gruesome as it is, causes people to discuss what they’d rather not and there are those who have a vested interest in seeing this downplayed in the media. This case shows the hidden horror of abortion; as long as we don’t see it or hear about it we don’t ask the question is there something wrong here?”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that a regularly scheduled audit showed that one M16 rifle was missing and that only a few officers had access to the safe where the guns were stored inside the Philadelphia Police Training Academy. He said he does not think the weapon could have been stolen by anyone outside the department.
On Tuesday, April 9, an audit of the 1,356 Colt M-16 weapons stored at the Academy was conducted. It revealed one weapon, a fully automatic M-16, was missing. The police department received the weapons from the federal government in August 2009. DLA Disposition Services and the Bureau of Supplies and Surplus conducted the audit.
Ramsey said a limited number of people are authorized to enter the secured location. He has directed Internal Affairs officers to conduct a full-scale investigation. He said no individual, current or former employee, with access to these weapons is exempt from being thoroughly investigated and that a full audit on all city-owned firearms throughout the entire department will be held.
Investigation into teen’s murder continues
As of Tribune press time homicide detectives continue to investigate the murder of an Overbrook High School student who was shot on a playgroound across from the school. . Police said that the victim, Bernard Scott, 17, was an innocent bystander. A passing motorist saw Scott collapse onto the street and rushed him to Lankenau Medical Center where he was pronounced dead by physicians at 7:07 p.m.
According to homicide detectives the deadly shooting happened across the street from Overbrook High School at Tustin Playground, at 59th Street and Lancaster Avenue at 3:46 p.m. Police were called to the vicinity in response to a report of gunfire. They said it started with a fistfight while the baseball team was practicing, but what exactly sparked the fight is still under investigation. Witnesses told police several shots were fired by two teens. A 7-year old youth was wounded in the right hip. A second shooting victim, an 18-year old suffered a graze wound to the back. Both were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The 18-year old, whose description matched that of one of the shooters and whose name was not released by police as of Tribune press time was being questioned by investigators. Police are also questioning a 20-year old Black male in connection with the shooting. So far no one has been charged in the case.
While lawmakers in Washington began earnestly debating whether or not to pass stronger gun laws on Thursday, a fistfight across the street from a Philadelphia high school ended with a 17-year old boy dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
The victim has been identified as Bernard Scott, an Overbrook High School student from the 1800 block of Georges Lane who investigators said was an innocent bystander. A passing motorist saw Scott collapse onto the street and rushed him to Lankenau Medical Center where he was pronounced dead by physicians at 7:07 p.m.
According to homicide detectives the deadly shooting happened across the street from Overbrook High School at Tustin Playground, at 59th and Lancaster Streets at 3:46 p.m. Police were called to the vicinity in response to a report of gunfire. Law enforcement officials said it started with a fistfight while the baseball team was in practice, but what exactly sparked the fight is still under investigation. Witnesses told police that several shots were fired by two teens. One person, a 17-year old was wounded in the right hip. A second shooting victim, an 18-year old suffered a graze wound to the back. Both were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The 18-year old, whose description matched that of one of the shooters and whose name was not released by police as of Tribune press time was being questioned by investigators. Police are also questioning a 20-year old Black male in connection with the shooting.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the parents, families, friends and classmates of the Overbrook High School student killed yesterday afternoon,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “The PFT is also here to lend support to the faculty and staff at Overbrook, who are no doubt overwhelmed by yesterday’s tragedy. What occurred yesterday is another grim reminder that student violence is not simply a ‘school problem,’ but a societal one that requires our entire community to work together on solutions that will someday make these senseless incidents a thing of the past.”
In Philadelphia one of the main factors driving the murder rate is the flow of illegal firearms. In Philadelphia for 2011 there were 324 homicides; 265 or over 81 percent were committed by firearms and only 3 of them were committed by a shotgun or rifle. In 2012 there were 180 homicides committed by firearms. As of Tribune press time, Philadelphia’s murder rate for this year stands at 61.