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Phila. Lawmakers Press For Gun Ban In City Parks, Rec Centers

(Phila. PD Cmdr. Verdell Johnson, recreation commissioner Susan Slawson, and public safety director Mike Resnick testify before City Council.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Phila. PD Cmdr. Verdell Johnson, recreation commissioner Susan Slawson, and public safety director Mike Resnick testify before City Council. Image from City of Phila. TV)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City Council and the Nutter administration may soon be embroiled in a new debate over guns: whether they have the right to ban legally registered firearms from the city’s recreation centers and parklands.

A City Council committee last week approved a measure proposed by Council president Darrell Clarke that calls on the mayor to create regulations that would ban outright any firearms in the parks or at recreation centers, even if the guns are legal.

Mike Resnick, the city’s public safety director (far right in top photo), says that with 54 shootings at rec centers since 2010, the administration supports the ban.

“If you’re going to a rec center to play basketball, I can’t imagine there’s a legitimate reason to bring a firearm, even if you are legally licensed to carry it,” he told the lawmakers.

Even though the state regulates firearms, Resnick said, the city can ban guns at city facilities.

“The Law Department’s opinion is that we are regulating who can come and what they can bring to city-owned properties and city facilities,” Resnick said.  “It’s not necessarily the regulation of guns or firearms, so it’s not preempted by state law, but we’re regulating what can and cannot be brought into a city facility.”

(Councilman David Oh, in file photo.)

(Councilman David Oh, in file photo.)

But councilman-at-large David Oh (right) questioned whether the city can legally impose such a ban, and whether it’s fair to people who have “carry” permits.

“It could have been a victim, a senior citizen who walks in the park at night with her dog, someone who has had a traumatic experience, and is licensed to carry, and would not otherwise go outside at night without that firearm.  If they’re not violating the law, what causes us to think that by preventing that person from going to public grounds, that somehow our city will be safer?” Oh wondered aloud.

Resnick acknowledged Oh’s points and stressed that actual regulations have yet to be written:

“The points you raise are all valid concerns.  And we obviously need to keep those in mind — protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, but balancing it between the safety of those who use our parks and rec facilities.”

City Council’s parks and recreation committee also approved two measures calling on the administration to provide annual reports of crimes at rec centers and on parkland.  That was prompted in part by last summer’s rape of a 12-year-old at one center during normal hours of operation (see related story).

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