Compelled by the murder of Philadelphia police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Thursday called on Pennsylvania's congressional delegation to re-enact a federal assault weapons ban.
"This issue is quite simple," Rendell said in a statement. "Either (you) support law enforcement or you don't. And if you don't, you'll have to tell the widow of the next victim or the young child of the next victim why you didn't vote to protect them."
Mayor Michael Nutter said last weekend's "assassination" of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, who was shot at least five times with a Chinese SKS rifle while responding to a bank robbery, was "truly shocking."
"We all know that he did not stand a chance," said Nutter, speaking at a City Hall news conference. "It's a high-powered rifle that no one should have their hands on."
The comments came about 12 hours after a third suspect, Eric Floyd, was captured late Wednesday night in an abandoned rowhouse in southwest Philadelphia. Floyd, 33, was caught following a five-day manhunt after police said an FBI agent received a tip.
Brought to police headquarters in Liczbinski's handcuffs, Floyd was charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy and related offenses. His girlfriend, Tonya Stephens, 37, was found with him and charged with obstructing justice, hindering apprehension and conspiracy.
Another bank robbery suspect, Levon Warner, 38, was arrested Sunday and charged with murder, robbery and conspiracy.
Suspect Howard Cain, 33, was shot to death by police on Saturday during a post-robbery chase. An area mosque has refused a request to hold funeral services for Cain, a Muslim, because of his criminal conduct.
On Thursday, Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell released a copy of a letter they sent to members of the state's congressional delegation asking for the federal ban on assault weapons be reinstated. A ban enacted in 1994 was not renewed after 2004.
"Passing this legislation will go a long way to protecting those who put their lives on the line every day for us," Rendell and Nutter wrote. "There is no excuse to do otherwise."
The ban, which took effect in June 1994 and expired in September 2004, made the possession, manufacture, use and import of assault weapons illegal. However, the Chinese-made SKS rifle that was used to kill Liczbinski would not fall under the 1994 ban because it came into the U.S. in 1992, a fact Rendell and Nutter pointed out in their letter to Pennsylvania's 19 U.S. House members and two U.S. senators.
Rendell and Nutter wrote that Liczbinski's murder "reminds us that our police are outgunned by criminals who have access to these weapons."
Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-8, a co-sponsor of a bill to reinstitute the assault weapons ban and son of a former Philadelphia police officer, said the government needs to be "proactive" to quell gun violence.
"While I support the right of gun ownership and I believe in the Second Amendment, I strongly believe that if someone wants to fire an assault rifle they should join the military," Murphy said.
The congressman's opponents in this year's House race, however, said reinstating the assault weapons ban would do little, if anything, to stop gun violence.
Tom Manion, a Republican from Doylestown Township, said the focus should be on stricter law enforcement, not on enacting more gun laws.
"I really don't think a ban on assault weapons is going to do anything to keep the criminals from getting their hands on guns," Manion said.
He noted all three men police accused in the Port Richmond bank robbery and fatal shooting of Liczbinski were released early from previous prison sentences. Had they served their full sentences, Manion said, the suspects would have been in jail Saturday when the Philadelphia police officer was slain.
"It's easy to look at the Second Amendment, but we have to focus on keeping the criminals off the streets," Manion said.
Tom Lingenfelter, a Doylestown resident running as an independent against Murphy, said better enforcement of existing criminal laws is needed rather than instituting additional gun laws.
A competitive pistol shooter who tried out for the U.S. Olympic Team this year, Lingenfelter said law enforcement authorities have enough trouble enforcing current gun laws. One more law would not stop gun violence, he said.
"Just because you make a law doesn't mean the problem's going to stop," he said.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times