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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: May 5, 2021 01:08 PM
From: Representative Todd Stephens
To: All House members
Subject: Studying the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of firearms offenses in the City of Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania
Sadly, each day, those of us in the Philadelphia media market bear witness to the bloodshed that has overcome the city of brotherly love.  According to federal law enforcement officials, “In 2020, 499 people were murdered—a 40% increase from the 356 homicides that occurred in 2019. And in 2021, we are on pace to surpass 600 murders, a horrifying milestone.”

According to The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, as of April 28, 2021:
  • 648 people have been shot this year in Philadelphia including at least 55 children.  This total represents a 35% increase over the same date last year.
  • 142 people have been killed by gunfire
  • The rate of nonfatal shootings increased more sharply in Philadelphia this year so far than any other U.S. city with a population over 1 million.
This dramatic and concerning rise in gun violence has raised many questions about the criminal justice system in Philadelphia.  In fact, a recent analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer of data concerning firearms cases found that:

  • Thousands more people are being arrested for carrying guns illegally. But their chances of being convicted in court have fallen by nearly a quarter.
  • In 2021, police are making arrests for carrying an illegal gun on a pace nearly three times that of 2017.  If the current pace continues, police will make more than 3,000 arrests this year for illegal gun possession — by far the most on record.
  • Meanwhile, people accused of illegally carrying guns have seen their chances of getting convicted in court plunge from 63% in 2017 to 49% two years later.
According to the same Philadelphia Inquirer article, “Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Philadelphia’s criminal justice system has become a “revolving door” for repeat gun offenders — leaving more of them on the street with their weapons, with little reason to fear the consequences of being caught.”

Recently, federal law enforcement officials announced they would be taking a greater role in investigating and prosecuting firearms offenses in Philadelphia.

While these news accounts are concerning it’s important that the General Assembly have a complete and thorough analysis conducted by those with expertise in criminal justice policy and analysis before reaching any conclusions.

The families that live in, work in, or visit, the City of Philadelphia shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of gun violence.  That’s why I am introducing legislation requesting the PA Commission on Sentencing, a data-driven, evidence-based, bipartisan, legislative agency, study criminal cases involving firearms.  The Commission will rely on arrests, guilty pleas, convictions, sentences and other data to study the manner in which firearms cases have been investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated in the City of Philadelphia and other counties to help inform the General Assembly of any reforms necessary to better protect the people of this Commonwealth.

Introduced as HR111