Politics & Policy

Philly Mayor Peddles False Narrative for Gun Control After a Man with a Long Criminal History Shoots Six Police Officers

Jim Kenney greets supporters in Philadelphia, Pa., on May 19, 2015. (Mark Makela/Reuters)
If the mayor wants to decrease gun crime, he should keep criminals off the streets and enforce the gun laws already on the books.

All eyes were on North Philadelphia last night after a gunman fired on police serving a narcotics warrant. At around 4:30 p.m., the suspect barricaded himself in a North Philadelphia home and began a standoff that would last for almost eight hours. During the ordeal, six officers were shot and two were trapped inside the house. Thankfully, the injuries to the police officers were not life-threatening and the two officers trapped inside were evacuated by a SWAT team several hours before the suspect, Maurice Hill, surrendered.

After visiting the wounded police officers in the hospital, the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, spoke to reporters and called for gun control. “Our officers need help. They need help. They need help with gun control. They need help with keeping these weapons out of these people’s hands,” Kenney said. “This government, on the federal and state level, don’t want to do anything about getting these guns off the street and getting them out of the hands of criminals.”

“It’s aggravating. It’s saddening,” he said. “It’s just something we need to do something about. And if the state and federal government doesn’t want to stand up to the NRA and some other folks, then let us police ourselves,” Kenney said.

“That argument is B.S. Any evidence that Hill is an NRA member?” Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, told me. “Hill is a threat to everyone around him not because he may or may not be an NRA member but because he has embarked on a life of crime. That is what the problem is. It is not the NRA’s advocacy. And the mayor knows that.”

“The lies about cops told by Warren, Harris, and DeBlasio lead to actions like these,” Johnson said. “It’s not the NRA.”

Indeed it is not. Maurice Hill has a long and extensive criminal history. Before last night, he had been arrested nearly a dozen times since turning 18 and convicted six times on charges that involved illegal possession of guns, drug dealing, and aggravated assault. He has been in and out of prison; the longest sentence handed him came in 2010, when a federal judge gave him a 55-month term. In 2008, he was convicted of escaping, fleeing from police, and resisting arrest. Along the way, he has beaten criminal charges on everything from kidnapping to attempted murder. Hill has also spent time in federal prison. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to federal firearms violations after he was caught with a Smith & Wesson .357 and later a Taurus PT .45 semiautomatic. His prior felony convictions should have barred him from owning those weapons. “There are plenty of laws. It’s not a lack of gun laws,” Johnson added. “Hill is not in the business of obeying laws.”

“That is just Kenney deflecting and pivoting to his DNC talking points,” Gregg Richman, a candidate for common-pleas judge in the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County, told me. “It wasn’t a gun-control issue that caused this. It was the failure of this administration along with the DA’s policies of letting serious criminals back on the streets,” Richman said. “This is not about guns but failure of the leaders to support law enforcement.”

Jeffrey Roorda, author of The War on Police, a former police officer and the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, agrees. “Violence, especially deadly assaults on police, are out of control in cities like Philadelphia and St. Louis where the voters have elected so-called reform-minded prosecutors,” he told me. “The truth is that these prosecutors’ sick brand of reform amounts to an amnesty program for deadly criminals who prey on communities of color and target cops for violence,” Roorda says. “We need elected officials who will support cops and their efforts to remove dangerous criminals, like the Philadelphia shooter, from the streets before they go on shooting sprees.”

On Kenney’s watch, Philadelphia has been plagued with gun violence. The homicide rate is the highest it has been in over a decade; in 2018, the rate increased 11 percent from the previous year. Kenney, and most other liberals advocating gun control, are ignoring the facts: The overwhelming majority of gun-related crimes are committed by people who own guns illegally. Crafting legislation that affects legal owners will have no impact on this.

Kenney and other Democratic politicians such as Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren have all used this incident to push for additional gun-control laws. The press, meanwhile, has sought to cast the fight as just another “active shooter” in America. But the standoff in Philadelphia was no such thing. Americans watching cable news last night watched a career criminal resisting arrest and trying to murder police in the process. Our response to this event should reflect that fact. The mayor needs to look in the mirror.

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