Tom Corbett Chooses the NRA

Philly keeps trying to stem the flow of guns that account for the majority of homicides in this city. But if the attorney general -- a candidate for governor -- has his way, the U.S. Supreme Court will ensure it never happens.

By Joel Mathis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Oct. 27, 2009

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Tom Corbett wants to be your governor. And it's ok if you're armed.

Attorney General Tom Corbett is the top law enforcement officer in the state, and he wants to be your next governor. But he doesn’t necessarily care about life and death in Philadelphia.

That’s the only conclusion to draw from the Republican’s decision to add his name to a list of 33 state attorneys general who are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down municipal handgun restrictions across the country—depriving Philly and other big cities of a potential tool to clamp down on the gun violence that plagues them. It’s good news for Corbett’s supporters in the National Rifle Association, but bad news for the rest of us who live in a city that suffers a gun-related death every few days.

Corbett’s signature is on a “friend of the court” brief (PDF) spearheaded by Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott in support of the NRA lawsuit to strike down municipal gun restrictions in Chicago. Unless those restrictions are lifted by the court, Abbott wrote, “millions of Americans may be deprived of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as a result of actions by local governments.” No mention, of course, of the 30,000 Americans who die each year from gun violence.

“That would have a chilling effect on municipalities,” Tricia Enright, Mayor Nutter’s communications director, said of the potential Supreme Court ruling. Philly is one of a number of Pennsylvania cities, she noted, that “have taken it upon themselves to pass gun safety laws because the state won’t.”

Indeed, the struggle between Harrisburg and Philadelphia is nothing new. The General Assembly has long banned any restrictions on private handgun ownership, even though the city has at times been under siege: In 2006, when “Killadelphia” violence was spiking, 344 of the city’s 406 homicides were the result of gun violence. While the numbers have improved somewhat, they’re still significant: Last year, 280 of the city’s 333 homicide victims were shot to death. Clamp down on guns, and maybe those numbers plummet further.

Even so, in June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down Philadelphia’s bans on assault weapons and the “straw purchase” of handguns, asserting that only the legislature—and not the cities—has the authority to pass gun laws. The court left several other provisions in place, however, allowing Philly to require that lost handguns be reported to police and prohibit gun ownership by people subject to “protections from abuse” orders.

Last year, Corbett—whose office didn’t respond to requests for comment—received an “A+” rating from the NRA. Nonetheless, he has sometimes seemed to be on the side of angels when it comes to Philadelphia gun violence. Last year he joined Dist. Atty. Lynne Abraham in launching a program warning against “straw purchases” of guns by people with clean criminal records for convicts who aren’t legally allowed to possess guns.

“It is not enough to investigate and prosecute criminals. We need to educate the public, especially our children, about the dangers associated with gun violence,” Corbett said at the time.

Education only goes so far, though, without laws and the ability to enforce them. Restricting unfettered access to firearms would do even more to reduce violence, and it’s on this score that Corbett and the other attorneys general fall short. Though the case focuses on Chicago’s laws, the ruling will affect every city dealing with gun violence—and potentially put an end to Philly’s hopes that the General Assembly might one day allow us to properly deal with the situation here. The brief bearing Corbett’s signature is full of references to the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers and the underpinnings of Anglo-American political philosophy—but it completely ignores the problems faced by 21st century Americans.

“Unlike other enumerated rights—like free speech and religious exercise—the right to keep and bear arms carries an inherent risk of danger to the liberty and interests of others,” wrote the attorneys who are defending Chicago’s gun ordinances. “Thus, in urban environments, where handgun abuse is so rampant, the protection of a right to handguns simply because they are in common use undermines, rather than guarantees, ordered liberty. Enforcing handgun control laws can make an enormous difference in curbing firearms violence.”

That sounds right, but Tom Corbett disagrees. Philadelphians shouldn’t be surprised by his stance. We should, however, be disappointed and offended that he so easily disregards the violence that affects our city. And we should remember it next year when we vote for a new governor.

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10
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1. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2009 at 09:48AM

“The overwhelming majority of killers are criminals or "wantabe' gangsters, using illegal weapons. The gun is inanimate and cannot be bad. The criminal is bad. I have been the victim of an attempted mugging on three occasions and one attempted car jacking. On three occasions, my pistol stopped the muggers and a large knife stopped the would be car jacker. If average citizens legally arm themselves and get proper weapons training and basic legal education concerning weapons useage, he or she will have some hope of surviving a life threatening situation.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2009 at 06:21PM

“If the guns are the problems, why does your city have one of the highest violent crime rates given your very strict gun control. Just saying. It is a proven fact that violent crime decreases when concealed carry is passed. Why are you trying to help criminals by banning guns from law abiding citizens and rendering them helpless!!!”

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3. H. Foster said... on Nov 4, 2009 at 01:01AM

“You quoted a misleading fact. The "30,000" deaths by firearms in the US is actually less. Less than half are homicides, and then that includes "justifiable homicides" from self defense, the majority are suicides. You can correct your stats from either the BATF website or the FBI website. They maintain the most current stats which, by the way, end up correlating to the CDC's stats that are usually three years old after verification. Auto deaths are almost double, and to drive is a privilege, not a right, but no one wants to severely regulate vehicles and take them out of the hands of citizens. Maybe, just maybe, if you'd advocate for more citizen responsibility and increase legal gun ownership in your city, you would rid yourselves of the predatory criminals whose nature is to use a gun to commit a crime? Just a thought, cause it works everywhere in the US it is done!”

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4. Dan said... on Apr 23, 2010 at 09:46PM

“The people who want to take the Guns from Law bidding Citizen. As far as I'm
concerned , Are Communist. The Second Amendment protects the rights of
the other Amendments. Plus I have a right, to protect Myself and My
family. We seem to have a lot of scumbags, In Goverment, Who thinks
the regular American Is stupid and,We don't need the freedoms We

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5. Dan said... on May 19, 2010 at 01:33PM

“The writer of this article disgusts me!!! It is so blatantly wrong.There is so much undeniable truth, statistics, etc. that concealed carry amongst honest law abiding citizens causes homocide (not justifiable) to plummet. I support Tom Corbett's idea. And i hope the gun ban is lifted and citizens start to carry. If they do, aggressive homocides will drop so fast, it won't even be funny. As Thomas Jefferson said, owning and CARRYING a gun is not only a right as an American, it's a duty. It does no good if you aren't carrying it. And the part when the writer claims that he only talked about the days of the founding fathers and not about the problems we face today in the 21st century, just goes to show how ignorant he truly is. The founding Fathers had exactly the same problems we have today!! There was suicide, homocide, robbery, assault, rape, etc. Does Joel, the writer, really believe all they did was ride horses and drink lemonade?? Come on, get educated Joel”

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6. Ken Z. said... on May 19, 2010 at 03:38PM

“Mr. Mathis ,What part of "The right to bear arms shall not be infringed" don't you understand? It is a RIGHT to bear arms and not a privilege as some of you uneducated liberals would have people believe. Want to see crime skyrocket? Enact gun control and it will escalate out of control. If you have a problem in your city, deal with it! Support you Police, Get more Police, Get involved with your Community, but don't enact your self-righteous bullshit on the rest of our State!”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:30PM

“I am an african american male, registered democrat in Philadelphia, NRA member,concealed carry permit holder in 3 states, and I support Tom Corbett. No citizen of Philadelphia has a private police escort 24/7, therefore I can protect myself with any of the 4 handguns I own. Criminals get guns illegally and use them at will. Restricting "legal" gun ownership only serves to empower the criminal element, and is a foolish policy of all big city politicians including Philadelphia. Guns don't committ crimes by themselves, bad people with guns do. Thats like banning spoons because Rosie ate with a spoon and got fat. Darn foolish policy.”

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8. matt said... on Sep 13, 2010 at 01:49PM


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9. Anonymous said... on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:28PM

“The state of Illinois has a Handgun Carry Ban, so does Chicago ! Yet they have more shootings then Phila does, so now what ?”

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10. Neez said... on Nov 7, 2013 at 11:00AM

“This article is heavily biased and not very objective at all. It completely ignores the fact that these proposed legislations would do nothing to control the flow of guns to criminals. In PA and all the surrounding states, several of which have stricter gun laws like maryland and NJ, all require universal background checks for pistols, even between personal sales. Pistols make up 97% of the deaths you're speaking of. So the pistols are purchase legally, serial numbers are scratched off and sold to a drug dealer which sells it to someone else. That's how criminals get their guns, none of the proposed handgun restrictions would do anything to stop that.

What it would do, is deprive law abiding citizens from having personal protection.

The only way to do what you're talking about and slowing or stopping the flow of guns to crime ridden neighborhoods is to actually ban all firearms nationally. It won't stop or slow violent crime, but it would lower gun deaths.”


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