Our Public Spaces: Guns and Safety

<p>Mayor Jim Kenney speaking at City Hall event hosted by PA Youth Vote and the Office of Youth Engagement | (Kasey Shamis/Bullhorn Photographer)</p>

Mayor Jim Kenney speaking at City Hall event hosted by PA Youth Vote and the Office of Youth Engagement | (Kasey Shamis/Bullhorn Photographer)

On Tuesday, September 27th, Mayor Jim Kenney passed an executive order to ban guns in Philadelphia’s recreational centers, pools, and playgrounds. Anyone who carries a firearm into the building will be hit with a trespassing charge.  This has once again struck up the conversation of dismantling the preemptive law of Pennsylvania, meaning that Philadelphia, as a municipality, will not be able to pass gun laws, only restrictions. 

This signing came after Tiffany Fletcher, a mother of three, was shot and killed while working at West Philadelphia Recreation Center a few weeks ago, galvanising the need for action. Kenney spoke at Fletcher's funeral with grief, “I watched [parks and recreation workers] yesterday line up on Lehigh Avenue like police officers burying one of their own. ... I saw what I usually see when a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty.” They were all out there lined up like they were on the front line, and they are,” he stated with emotion. Many of her colleagues and local Parks and Recreation workers honored Fletcher on the day of her funeral, showing respect.

Mayor Kenney and individuals working for Philadelphia recreational facilities don't know how to prevent the issue if it's happening in these spaces, in what are supposed to be safer spaces. Where kids play, and people work, where communities come together. Many across the city collectively agree that this order against guns in public places was necessary to ensure Philly is safer.

Nonetheless, the city is far from safe, and Philadelphia has had lots of pushback in court regarding gun restrictions. Several elected officials have neglected to respond to the rising gun violence and turned a blind eye to gun safety protocols. These disagreements within the municipality significantly negatively impact the general population and have raised calls for action. 


On October 4th, a Philadelphia judge struck down Kenney’s order. This came somewhat unexpectedly, and Kenney was incredibly disappointed with the ruling. Most citizens of Philadelphia are confused and want this issue to be revisited by the Supreme Court; government officials also second the idea that the law should be revisited, especially with the surge in gun violence. Mayor Kenney feels as though he is powerless against the judge but that turning a blind eye is entirely unethical. 

In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that the states would control all gun laws and restrictions in Ortiz v. Commonwealth. The political and social differences between the whole state of Pennsylvania and a city like Philadelphia cannot be compared; in many cases, local conditions may need more order than statewide conditions, which means that state legislature may not recognize the importance of local conditions.

Judge Emerita Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter was worried about the children in this scenario, “We are denying [the children] the most fundamental right, that of life and liberty, and so I would urge our Supreme Court to reconsider the breadth of the Ortiz doctrine….”. Judge Leadbetter is baffled at this ruling and is scared for the safety of our city, Leadbetter also echoes the statement of other government officials in their plea to reconsider the Supreme Court ruling. This decision aggravates our gun violence crisis, and the Preemption Law hinders the local government’s ability to establish and create safety laws. It’s frightening and puzzling to finally realize that this is our reality and that fighting for safety is the only thing we can continue to do. 



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