The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control

By Lisa L. Miller | Go to book overview
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Five
CRIME, LAW, AND GROUP POLITICS
IN TWO URBAN LOCALES

We deal with everything from barking dogs to a shoot-out.

—Legislative aide, Philadelphia City Council

The 2000 public hearing in Philadelphia on the proposed gun ordinance discussed in chapter 1 was not the first, or the last, time Philadelphia tried to address gun violence through local legislation. In fact, several of the same citizen organizations that testified at the 2000 hearing were on hand again for another round in 2004, when the city council tried once again to enact regulation, aimed this time at reducing straw and multiple gun purchases. A straw purchase is the process whereby the gun purchaser uses someone else to undergo the background check and buy the gun for him or her. Straw purchases are considered a significant problem in the proliferation of guns in the innercity. Ex-Offenders for Community Empowerment, a locally based organization that includes former inmates and has worked extensively on the gun problem, testified at both hearings, as did a local women’s group, Mothers in Charge, and Pennsylvanians Against Handgun Violence. In a one-year period from mid-2006 to mid-2007, council members introduced a total of 10 bills that targeted gun violence.1

My analysis of interest group representation in the local crime policy process is based on examination of 500 witnesses at 45 city council public safety committee hearings over a seven-year period and interviews with 17 local city council members in two urban locales.2 In addition, I reviewed dozens of city council hearing transcripts and identified groups through the Internal Revenue Service’s Cumulative List of Organizations,

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