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

By Lisa L. Miller | Go to book overview

One
INTERESTS, VENUES, AND
GROUP PARTICIPATION

The central political fact in a free society is the tremendous contagiousness
of conflict…. The outcome of all conflict is determined by the scope of
its contagion. The number of people involved in any conflict determines
what happens; every change in the number of participants, every increase
or reduction in the number of participants, affects the result
.

—E. E. Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People

In November 2000, the Philadelphia city council passed Bill No. 000659, amending the Philadelphia Code by adding a section entitled “Reporting Requirements upon the Application or Renewal of a License to Carry a Firearm.” The amendment required all applicants for concealed weapons permits in Philadelphia to list on the application all of the weapons they owned. The purpose of the bill was to provide police with a tool for tracking guns that were used to commit crimes in the city. In 2006, four out of five homicides in Philadelphia were committed with firearms, and almost 6,000 robberies were committed with a gun.1

While support for tracking guns was high among local officials and residents of crime-ridden areas, particularly African American neighborhoods, state legislators had taken a dim view of similar previous efforts. Within a year of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh approving bills banning certain assault rifles within their city limits in 1993, for example, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania enacted a preemption law, voiding the weapons ban. The law amended the state’s Uniform Firearms Act to provide that

-3-

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