ABC Suggests Rural Areas to Blame for Philadelphia's Murder Rate

ABC's World News Sunday presented a sympathetic look at Philadelphia city officials who are threatening to sue the Pennsylvania state government, "dominated by rural lawmakers" from hunting country, for blocking the city's push for more gun regulation in the face of a high murder rate. Correspondent David Kerley suggested a link between New York City's gun control laws and its lower murder rate. Kerley: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws." Instead of presenting the argument that a greater rate of gun ownership could help reduce crime, Kerley merely showed a soundbite of a Republican lawmaker who argued that gun control would not affect criminals, before concluding: "That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate, and cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death." (Transcript follows)

During a plug for the story before a commercial break, anchor Dan Harris portrayed Philadelphia as a "desperate" city that was "in the cross-hairs" of the gun control debate. Harris: "A city desperate to stop the murders finds itself in the cross-hairs of a national debate on gun control."

Harris introduced the story by relaying the contention of Philadelphia gun control proponents that its city has a higher murder rate because the city must abide by gun laws set by a state government that is "dominated by rural lawmakers." Harris: "Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting."

Kerley began his report by recounting the story of a five-year-old girl who was shot to death while riding in a car. Kerley then suggested that the reason New York City has a lower murder rate than Philadelphia is because it has stricter gun laws than Philadelphia. Kerley: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws."

The ABC correspondent then turned to one of the "frustrated city officials" who says they will "sue their own state government." City Councilman Darrell Clarke: "I can no longer continue to sit here and allow the level of violence to continue unabated simply because people don't feel it is appropriate to do what I believe is their mandatory duty."

When Kerley moved to the pro-gun side of the issue, and showed soundbites of Republican State Representative Steve Cappelli, the ABC correspondent referred to the interest of rural Pennsylvanians in hunting, but did not delve into the argument that high rates of gun ownership can reduce crime. Kerley: "But even the city councilman [Clarke] knows he's in for a bruising battle, one that he may not win. That's because the vast majority of Pennsylvania is rural. And guns and hunting are very important here in farm country." Notably, last May, ABC's John Stossel had discussed the self-defensive benefits of gun ownership on 20/20.

After hearing from Cappelli, who argued that new gun laws "will not impact the very element that's terrorizing that city," Kerley concluded: "That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate. And cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death."

Below is a complete transcript of David Kerley's story from the July 8 ABC News Sunday:

DAN HARRIS, before commercial break: And coming up here on World News this Sunday, a city desperate to stop the murders finds itself in the cross-hairs of a national debate on gun control. We'll take "A Closer Look."
...

HARRIS: We're going to take "A Closer Look" tonight at gun control. Where you stand on this issue may depend on where you live. Urban Americans tend to favor strict gun laws. Rural Americans do not. But in one big city, they don't get to choose. Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting. ABC's David Kerley has the story.

DAVID KERLEY: Nearly every day, someone in Philadelphia is shot to death. Last fall, it was five-year-old Cashae Rivers.

KIM CARTER-FORD, Aunt of shooting victim: I couldn't imagine something like that going through my back and coming out my chest.

KERLEY: Riding in the back seat of a car, a bullet ripped through her heart.

CARTER-FORD: It does make you want to retaliate. But no one wants to just keep the cycle going.

KERLEY: A cycle that has caused the murder rate to soar at twice that of most major cities. In fact, Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws. The state of Pennsylvania tells Philadelphia you can't pass a gun law?

DARRELL CLARKE, Philadelphia City Councilman: The state of Pennsylvania has preempted all of our abilities to deal with gun regulations.

KERLEY: So now, frustrated city officials say they will sue their own state government.

CLARKE: I can no longer continue to sit here and allow the level of violence to continue unabated simply because people don't feel it is appropriate to do what I believe is their mandatory duty.

KERLEY: These urban leaders say all they want is to restrict gun purchases to one a month, and require a yearly $10 registration fee, to target those who buy guns in bulk to sell to criminals. But even the city councilman knows he's in for a bruising battle, one that he may not win. That's because the vast majority of Pennsylvania is rural. And guns and hunting are very important here in farm country. You got a couple of bull's eyes there.

State Representative STEVE CAPPELLI (R-PA): Yes, I do.

KERLEY: Steve Cappelli has a concealed weapons permit. He's a hunter.

CAPPELLI: You're a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, aren't you?

Unidentified man: I certainly am.

KERLEY: And he's a Republican state representative. Philadelphia has a problem, don't they?

CAPPELLI: They are experiencing cultural genocide, to be blunt. Yes.

KERLEY: But Cappelli, like so many rural supporters of the Second Amendment, says gun limits won't work.

CAPPELLI: And any measure we give Philadelphia, any new regulation, any new authority to regulate firearms, will not impact the very element that's terrorizing that city.

KERLEY: That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate. And cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death. David Kerley, ABC News, Philadelphia.