PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force today announced the arrest of as many as 34 suspects accused of illegal gun trafficking, straw purchasing and other firearm offenses.
Attorney General Tom Corbett, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the arrests are part of an ongoing effort to tackle the problem of gun violence and homicides in Philadelphia.
In December 2006 Corbett partnered with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department to form the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force. The Task Force, funded by the State Legislature, employs attorney general agents to work hand-in-hand with the Philadelphia police on gun related crimes. The defendants are prosecuted by the district attorney’s office.
Corbett said that the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force has opened 1,311 investigations, made 424 arrests and seized 779 firearms.
“The positive impact this Task Force has had on Philadelphia is undeniable,” Corbett said. “Not only have these agents made arrests and seized illegal firearms, but have assisted in solving shootings, burglaries, robberies, and homicides.”
“There is no doubt that the hard work of the Gun Violence Task Force has helped Philadelphia make a dent in the most dangerous crimes here, the crimes that are associated with guns,” says District Attorney Seth Williams. “The continued diligence of this Task Force is not only essential for Philadelphia, but for the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Corbett noted that to date the Task Force has convicted 183 individuals of straw purchasing and other gun trafficking offenses.
Corbett explained that a straw purchase occurs when someone purchases a gun for an individual, who is not legally allowed to possess a firearm.
“When you purchase a gun for a criminal and that gun is used to kill someone, it is as if you pulled the trigger yourself,” Corbett said. “The majority o f the suspects arrested today are accused of being straw purchasers and allegedly purchased firearms for boyfriends or friends, who otherwise would never have been allowed to possess a gun.”
According to agents, at least 15 of the suspects being announced today were involved in some type of straw purchase transaction.
Corbett said that the majority of weapons the task force seized were purchased legally and given to a criminal, stolen in burglaries and thefts, or traded by drug users instead of cash.
“Drugs, guns and violence are problems that can never be separated from one another,” Corbett said.
“This is not exclusively a Philadelphia problem,” Corbett said. “Other cities and town across Pennsylvania have seen firsthand the effects gun violence can have on our communities.”
Corbett noted that his office offers an educational program called Think Again: Gun Violence and Straw Purchasing. The program includes a DVD, which shows the harsh realities and consequences of gun violence through candid interview’s with a victim’s mother, trauma surgeon and law enforcement.
Presentations are available, free of charge, by contacting the Attorney General’s Education and Outreach Unit at 1-800-525-7642 or by emailing email@example.com.