Two mothers who lost sons to gun violence seek to defend Philadelphia's lost and stolen gun law in court

A handgun with hollow-point bullets 
Gun violence is a crisis in Philadelphia. That crisis is fueled by easily available handguns on the black market. Last year, the city began enforcing a law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours. The first defendant charged under this law has asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to block the City from enforcing the ordinance against him or anyone else.  Now, we are representing two mothers who have lost sons to gun violence to fight back in court to defend this law, which will keep illegal guns off the street. 
 
Mothers Kim Burrell and Freda Hill are joined in their petition to intervene, filed on January 16, by CeaseFirePA, the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, and Mothers in Charge. We are joined by pro bono co-counsel from Saul Ewing. Straw purchasers--those who buy guns in order to resell them on the black market--are a major source of illegal handguns. When guns used in crimes are traced back to straw purchasers, too often they dodge liability by falsely claiming that the guns were lost or stolen. Philadelphia's ordinance removes this convenient excuse, by subjecting those who would deploy it to fines or jail time. "This ordinance would make it harder for people who sell guns on the black market to dodge consequences when the gun they sold is used in a crime," said our attorney Ben Geffen. "The people most affected by gun violence know this, and that's why they're taking action to make sure this law will remain in effect."
 
The Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted our efforts in a January 22 editorial supporting the ordinance. "Reporting of lost and stolen firearms to prevent straw purchases would save lives without infringing on anyone's Second Amendment rights." 
 
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Michael Churchill recognized as a Drum Major for Civil Rights by the Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Association

Michael Churchill - 2020 Phila. MLK Jr. Assoc. Drum Major for Civil Rights Award Acceptance Speech
Michael Churchill - 2020 Phila. MLK Jr. Assoc. Drum Major for Civil Rights Award Acceptance Speech

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in recognition of decades of work advancing civil rights, our attorney Michael Churchill was honored as a Drum Major for Civil Rights by the Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence at their annual awards and benefits luncheon. Since joining Mississippi freedom summer in 1964, Michael has been active in the advancement of civil rights, winning major victories in the fight against police abuse, employment discrimination, and more. He currently helps lead our challenge to Pennsylvania's inadequate and inequitable school funding system. 

In his remarks, Michael highlighted Dr. King's vision of democratic self government, and how equal education is a foundation of that vision. He highlighted Pennsylvania's wide disparities in educational resources between wealthy districts and poor districts, and urged those in attendance to push the state government to remedy these inequalities. "Where will we be if we give up our belief in self government and in our ability to make our public institutions serve our needs?" Michael said. "In these new times, that must be our core conviction, sharing with Dr. King the belief that self-government is not an exercise in futility." You can watch or read Michael's speech on our website.   
 
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Law Center in the News: How historic segregation worsens the effects of climate change in Philadelphia. 

Smokestacks
The communities we serve experience the effects of decades of segregation and neglect from public officials. One of the starkest manifestations of this segregation was the practice of redlining begun in the 1930s, when the federal Home Owners' Loan Corporation rated primarily Black and immigrant neighborhoods as unacceptably high risks for insured mortgages. This mapping contributed to a cycle of disinvestment and poverty in these communities. 

One lasting effect of this disinvestment is a lack of green spaces and parks. "Green space has the ability to mitigate climate change as it relates to the urban heat island effect, so a lot of communities of color, particularly in Philadelphia, are hotter, and it's because of a lack of green space," said out staff attorney Ebony Griffin. A recent study in the journal Climate found that once-redlined neighborhoods across the country experience higher average daily temperatures. Philadelphia has the tenth highest disparity in the country, with the city's former redlined neighborhoods 9.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than their highly rated counterparts. Learn more about the continuing effects of redlining on Philadelphia in a January 17 article from the Courier.
 
Announcing the Lea & Claude Knight Community Organizing Initiative

The Lea _ Claude Knight Community Organizing Initiative 
We are excited to announce a new initiative to support our commitment to building the power of communities to take collective action. The Lea & Claude Knight Community Organizing Initiative, inaugurated by our board member Lea Knight and her husband Claude Knight, supports the use of the strategies and principles of community organizing--self-determination, building sustainable power for community members, and working towards a better future--in our cases and projects. Read more about the initiative here.
 
This initiative is helping to support the launch of a new organization, Renters United / Inquilinxs en la Lucha Philadelphia (RUP). This organization will organize and educate renters to fight for their rights to quality housing in the streets, in the courts, and in City Hall. RUP will be comprised of organized renters who share a building, a landlord, or a neighborhood. Stay tuned for more updates, and read more about RUP here.

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A piece of history: "Visions of Equality--The views of diverse Philadelphia activists" (1984)

Visions of Equality: The views of diverse Philadelphia activists (1984)
Visions of Equality: The views of diverse Philadelphia activists (1984)

Last year, as we prepared to move from our old space in the United Way Building to our new office at Two Penn Center, we came across a box of old two-inch video reels. These were the master tapes for "Visions of Equality," a documentary we commissioned in 1984 featuring dozens of interviews with citizen activists for equality in Philadelphia--housewives, factory workers, police officers, and more. Now, with assistance from Professor Charles Hardy of West Chester University, this short film is digitized and available online for the first time. 

"Their issues range from job discrimination to architectural barriers, clean air to effective schools," reads Professor Hardy in his introduction. "But as diverse as they are, they all concern...equal respect, equal participation, and a decent share in the common wealth--in a phrase, equal citizenship." We are happy to share their voices and this piece of history 35 years later. It is a testament to how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. View the full documentary on our YouTube channel
 
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Welcome Scott Charles and Bret Flaherty to our Board of Directors!

Bret Flaherty
Bret Flaherty

Scott Charles
Scott Charles

We are excited to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors, Scott Charles and Bret Flaherty. Scott Charles is the Trauma Outreach Coordinator at Temple University Hospital, working on the front lines of their efforts preventing gun violence, connecting families with support and services. Bret Flaherty is Assistant General Counsel at AmeriSource Bergen, with local and national experience in real estate law. He is an active supporter of community activism in Philadelphia's Asian American community.  Help welcome them by liking their post on LinkedIn