CNN Pushes Gun Control in Philadelphia, Blames Concealed Carry for Crime

On Thursday's "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN's Randi Kaye filed a story in which she promoted gun control as a solution for Philadelphia's crime problems, as she pushed the argument that the city's high rate of gun violence was the result of Pennsylvania state lawmakers voting to loosen gun laws in the 1990s. And, as if criminals would bother to apply for a permit to legally carry a concealed weapon, Kaye further suggested that the availability of concealed carry permits has contributed to the city's problems. Kaye: "In 1995 there were fewer than 800 applications for concealed weapons here. 'Keeping Them Honest,' we checked, and today there are 29,000 permits to carry. And it's against the law for police to ask anyone why they want one. One law enforcement source told me permits to carry are being passed out like candy." A blog posting on the show's Web site based on this story can be seen here. (Transcript follows)

After a report by correspondent Jim Acosta that recounted the story of security guards who were attacked by a gunman in Philadelphia, Acosta mentioned that the city's police commissioner "took the nation's presidential candidates to task" for not making gun control an election issue. Host Anderson Cooper cited statistics on the number of armored car attacks in 2006, and then introduced Kaye's report as part of the show's regular "Keeping Them Honest" segment. While Cooper promised a look at "all the angles in a debate with deadly stakes," the report in no way examined the evidence that high rates of gun ownership can combat crime.

Kaye began her report complaining that in Philadelphia, "getting a gun is about as easy as ordering a pizza." The CNN correspondent featured clips of Philadelphia community activist Ray Jones Jr., and passed on his complaints about the city's inability to enact gun control laws because state law forbids it. Kaye: "More than 85 percent of the hundreds of murders in Philadelphia this year have been committed with a firearm. Jones blames state lawmakers for failing to pass tougher gun laws and preventing cities like Philadelphia from setting their own gun laws, even though they desperately want to."

Kaye then recounted that in the 1990s, the Pennsylvania state legislature overturned an assault weapons ban, made it easier to obtain a concealed weapons permit, and passed the Uniform Firearms Act, before introducing State Senator Vincent Fumo, a pro-gun Democrat from the state. Kaye started off challenging him: "A lot of people say that's what, it's this act that took away the power from cities."

After a soundbite of Fumo contending that "they're misinformed on that," Kaye's response suggested that the accessibility of concealed weapon permits presents a problem for Philadelphia's safety. Kaye: "In 1995 there were fewer than 800 applications for concealed weapons here. 'Keeping Them Honest,' we checked, and today there are 29,000 permits to carry. And it's against the law for police to ask anyone why they want one. One law enforcement source told me, permits to carry are being passed out like candy."

She then turned to gun control advocate David Kairys, a professor from Temple University, and, without challenge, relayed his desire to require registration and licensing of guns, and to limit the number of gun purchases. Kaye: "Constitutional law professor David Kairys believes if Philadelphia had home rule, a lot would change. Guns would have to be registered and licensed, and there would be a limit on gun purchases."

The story did not delve into any evidence that high rates of gun ownership can reduce crime, and only displayed soundbites from Fumo that made relatively weak arguments, such as arguing that "Last time I checked, we had a law against murder. It doesn't prevent people from killing people."

She again challenged the pro-gun Fumo: "The governor, the mayor, the D.A., they all want stricter gun laws here. They say that's the only way to reduce crime."

Kaye concluded: "So the tug of war over lawmaking continues, and so does the killing."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions from the Thursday October 4 "Anderson Cooper 360":

ANDERSON COOPER, after a story on the Philadelphia armored car robbery: Jim, the police commissioner has come under a lot of criticism for the way he's handling the high crime rate in the city. How did he respond to today's incident?

JIM ACOSTA: Well, this commissioner has offered the extraordinary and very controversial proposal to put 10,000 volunteers on the street to patrol the city's most violent neighborhoods, but he said today even 20,000 volunteers probably would not have made the difference this morning. But the commissioner also took the nation's presidential candidates to task today, saying they need to pay more attention to the issue of gun control. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Hold-ups involving armored vehicles are actually very rare in America. Here's the raw data: The FBI reports 37 armored vehicle incidents in 2006 -- 30 involved the use of a firearm. Overall, more than $4 million were taken. The one person killed, though, in the armored car incident in 2006 was actually a suspect.

COOPER: Here's some more raw data. Pennsylvania lawmakers have voted year after year to loosen state gun laws. Most of the legislators did not represent big cities, but one of them does. And what's more, he led the charge to make it impossible for those same cities -- in this case, Philadelphia -- to enact their own tougher regulations. CNN's Randi Kaye now looking at all the angles in a debate with deadly stakes, "Keeping Them Honest."

RANDI KAYE: In Philadelphia, getting a gun is about as easy as ordering a pizza. Are guns flooding the streets here in Philadelphia?

RAY JONES, JR., Men United for a Better Philadelphia: Yes, they are.

KAYE: Each week, Ray Jones, along with other community volunteers, works to convince those most at risk of being shot or shooting someone to make smarter choices.

JONES: It's about survival. People are dying in the streets, and we need to help.

KAYE: That help, Jones says, isn't coming from the state. More than 85 percent of the hundreds of murders in Philadelphia this year have been committed with a firearm. Jones blames state lawmakers for failing to pass tougher gun laws and preventing cities like Philadelphia from setting their own gun laws, even though they desperately want to.

JONES: It really would be appropriate for the city to determine its own sort of destiny. Now our hands are sort of handcuffed.

KAYE: Back in 1994, a power struggle started when the legislature overturned an assault weapons ban, making AK-47s as easy to get as hunting rifles. The next year, rules were eased on concealed weapons. And Vincent Fumo, state senator and gun owner, pushed through the Uniform Firearms Act, making all gun laws uniform for the state of Pennsylvania. A lot of people say that's what, it's this act that took away the power from cities.

State Senator VINCENT FUMO (D-PA): No, they're misinformed. They're misinformed on that.

KAYE: In 1995 there were fewer than 800 applications for concealed weapons here. "Keeping Them Honest," we checked, and today there are 29,000 permits to carry. And it's against the law for police to ask anyone why they want one. One law enforcement source told me, permits to carry are being passed out like candy.

DAVID KAIRYS, Temple University: It's like the Wild West.

KAYE: Constitutional law professor David Kairys believes if Philadelphia had home rule, a lot would change. Guns would have to be registered and licensed, and there would be a limit on gun purchases. The way the law stands now-

DAVID KAIRYS, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: You could buy 50, 100, whatever your credit card would take. Then you can resell them.

KAYE: Kairys thinks there would be stiffer penalties for so-called straw purchasers, too, who legally buy guns only to sell them to those who can't. There's no way of telling just how many legal or illegal guns are on the street. Police have no way of knowing since state law doesn't require gun owners register their weapons. Each year Philadelphia police recover about 7,000 guns -- so many guns they're running out of room, and so many shootings police have a backlog of weapons to examine, test fire, and trace back to the trigger man.

FUMO: People want to think that this is the Wild West, we don't have any laws. What we don't have is enforcement of those laws.

KAYE: Senator Fumo argues tougher gun laws alone won't stop shootings.

FUMO: Last time I checked, we had a law against murder. It doesn't prevent people from killing people.

KAYE: The governor, the mayor, the D.A., they all want stricter gun laws here. They say that's the only way to reduce crime.

FUMO: Sure, it's a great way to get away from enforcement. It's a great way of avoiding the issue of hiring more police.

KAYE: So the tug of war over lawmaking continues-

JONES: It's going to be a shooting gallery.

KAYE: -and so does the killing. Randi Kaye, CNN, Philadelphia.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters