GUNS N’ ROSES: Judge Acquits Gun Shop Protesters

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MONICA YANT KINNEY: Twelve religious activists pulled off a legal miracle yesterday: They convinced a judge – who once worked for the Philadelphia Police Department, of all places – that it’s OK to break the law if the harm you cause is less than the harm you think you’re preventing.The unusual case pitted ministers, a rabbi, and one self-described professional “peacemaker” against James Colosimo’s eponymous gun shop on Spring Garden Street. So many people came to listen – 150 by my count – the trial had to be moved to a bigger courtroom. For six hours, a passionate prosecutor in a city beset by violence was put in the odd position of having to beat back factual evidence about a notorious gun seller. Two cops testified that they were more concerned with praying Quakers outside the gun shop than the semiautomatic weapons inside. Repeated objections were raised as defendants cried, preached, and quoted Lincoln in dramatic monologues framed as testimony. The protesters faced trespassing, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy charges for two demonstrations, one of which I viewed and chronicled as part of my efforts to beef up Pennsylvania’s anemic gun laws. But in the end, it felt like Colosimo was on trial. MORE

RELATED:  About a hundred people rallied in the rain in support of 12 activists on trial yesterday for blocking the entrance to a gun store. They were arrested back in January. The protesters say the owner of the store refused to sign a pledge of ethical conduct for gun sales. They want gun store owners to do things like videotape each sale, use a computerized system to trace gun crimes, and scrutinize I.D.’s. Three hundred and fifty t-shirts draped around Dilworth Plaza today bore the names of the 2008 gun violence victims from Philadelphia, Chester and Camden. But Sherry Ryan, from Mothers in Charge, says it will take more than t-shirts to stop the traffic in illegal guns. MORE

kids_guns2.thumbnail.jpgRELATED: Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham is announcing this morning the arrests of 17 people charged with buying handguns for juveniles. Abraham also will announce the creation of a new program that targets adults who make so-called straw purchases of guns for those under age 18. Each juvenile arrest in which a gun is recovered will be referred to the Gun Violence Task Force to investigate who provided the weapon to the juvenile. MORE

RELATED: Authorities say that gun traffickers are targeting Pennsylvania, where a straw purchase can net a drug dealer a handgun in a half an hour. In New Jersey and New York, the process takes up to 3 weeks. Assistant District Attorney Albert Toczydlowski says the recent task force created in Pennsylvania is making 10 arrests a month, only a small fraction of actual offenders. In this respect, the anti-straw purchase campaign has been a complete failure. MORE

RELATED: Detectives investigating the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald are probing if his matrix_pie_gun_anonib.gifkiller obtained the weapon through a straw purchase. Officer McDonald, 30, was fatally shot during an altercation with Daniel Giddings in North Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon. Giddings, who wounded a second officer, was killed by police. A straw purchase is when an individual without a criminal record purchases an item, most often a firearm, for a criminal who cannot legally obtain the item. MORE

RELATED: This is nothing new. This investigation should go deeper. When working the streets many guns I have gotten off the streets came from down south. I hope the probe goes deeper than this. Why is that? We need to start checking on this deeper as I said. MORE

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