, playgrounds and recreation centers are meant to be havens of relaxation, fun - and safety. It's obvious that guns have no part in that equation and they should be banned from the premises.
City Council is poised to take action on a bill that would do just that. It authorizes the departments of recreation and public property to develop regulations banning firearms in all parks, playgrounds, rec centers and in city-owned or -occupied buildings. The bill was voted favorably out of committee last week and is scheduled for a first reading at Thursday's Council meeting.
That would mean barring all guns, including legally licensed ones, from the city's 160 rec centers, 125 playgrounds, 125 neighborhood parks or, indeed, anywhere in the vast acreage of Fairmount Park. Guns are now prohibited at City Hall because it's a courthouse, but the ban would also be expanded to places such as the Municipal Services Building, the Water Department and every other place the city does business. The legislation would carry civil penalties, such as fines, rather than criminal charges.
The ban is just common sense to anyone who recalls the city's many brutal playground shootouts. Since 2011, at least 17 rec centers were scenes of shootings. How demented is it even to have to argue that case?
The legislation, co-sponsored by Council President Darrell Clarke and 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, is not without its skeptics, however. How, for instance, will it be enforced? Will it actually curtail the violence that's committed by thugs with illegal firearms who don't obey the laws anyway? Even some supporters believe that it's more symbolic than substantive.
And then there's the issue of legality. The legislation seems to violate the state's ban on the city's right to regulate "the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, . . . not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth." That outrageous pre-emption by NRA sycophants in the state Legislature prevents Philadelphia from passing its own gun laws.
In this case, supporters say this bill doesn't regulate guns; it regulates the city's own property, which it has a right to do. The city Law Department has said the legislation is "defensible" but vulnerable to challenge. Indeed, some other municipalities across the state that banned guns in parks and playgrounds eliminated them to conform to state law.
We say bravo to local legislators who are willing to challenge the state's unreasonable pre-emption. We say bravo to couching laws in ways that try creatively to circumvent the handcuffs that the state puts on the city. We support any measure that asserts our right to protect our citizens from gun carnage.
After all, the state's pre-emption went into effect well before the shootings at Sandy Hook. Public opinion has changed. A U.S. Senate committee has already voted favorably on three measures to curb gun violence. At the very least, Pennsylvania ought to allow Philadelphia to pass common-sense gun laws to help reduce the body count within our own borders - especially in places where children play.