By Michael D’Onofrio
PHILADELPHIA — A coalition of African-American community groups is calling for a Pennsylvania database to track all ammunition sold in the Keystone State.
But activists face an “uphill battle” in the Republican-controlled state legislature, which has stymied gun control efforts for decades.
Lawrence Clark, a main organizer of the Zero Now Network coalition, says a tracking system for ammunition could help law enforcement solve gun violence crimes as homicides and shootings surge in Philadelphia.
The group’s “Track the Bullet” proposal would require all bullets sold in the state to be traceable to buyers, said Clark, owner of Cord Manufacturing Group. He hopes to make the tracking system national.
“This would tie the buyer of the ammunition as the point of origin,” Clark said while flanked by more than a dozen community activists and other members of the Zero Now Network at the Octavius Catto statue outside City Hall on Tuesday.
The group said it intends to propose legislation to the Philadelphia delegation of state lawmakers in the coming weeks.
Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal said she supported the coalition’s proposal.
“Anything that we can do that can identify those few people who are terrorizing our communities, we need to do,” Bilal said. “Because bullets don’t have names, but we need to name those bullets.”
However, the group had no details about costs or logistics for implementing such a tracking system. The group intended to provide draft legislation to Philadelphia state representatives in the coming weeks.
Ronald G. Waters, a former Democratic state representative for the 191st House District, supported the proposal but said getting the ammunition control legislation passed would be an “uphill battle.”
Waters said advocates should pitch the proposal as a public safety measure.
“You have to make sure that these legislators know and the NRA [National Rifle Association] know: This is not an infringement on the Second Amendment in any kind of way,” Waters said.
State law prevents Philadelphia officials from regulating firearms. While many Democratic state legislators have pressed for gun reform proposals for years, the Republican-controlled legislature has not taken them up.
The number of homicides in Philadelphia stood at 151 as of Tuesday, up 30 percent compared with the same time last year, according to the police department’s website.
Philadelphia is coming off of a violent 2020. The number of homicides reached 499 last year, the highest since 1990 when killings hit 500. And the city logged the largest year-over-year increase in the homicide rate — 40% — last year since at least 1960.
Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.