House Passes Williams-White Bill to Allow Task Force to Prosecute Felon-in-Possession Gun Crime in Philadelphia

CapitolCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — The House yesterday passed House Bill 2275, sponsored by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and amended by Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester), to formally create a joint local-state task force to prosecute prior-convicted-felons in possession of firearms in Philadelphia.

The bill passed with a bipartisan majority of 151 to 49.

While the Gun Violence Task Force already exists within the Office of the Attorney General, the Williams amendment codifies the structure and adds responsibilities into law.

“It’s time we give the task force the teeth it needs to prosecute felon-in-possession of firearms cases in Philadelphia,” Williams said. “The murder rate in Philadelphia hit record levels in 2021 and is now on track to match or surpass that number this year.  As a former federal prosecutor, and specifically a gun prosecutor, I know that violent crime is overwhelmingly committed by prior-convicted-felons.  It is already a crime for those felons to possess a gun.  Convicting them of gun-possession crimes often stops violence before it occurs.  I have seen it firsthand.”

The task force, which operates within the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, will be comprised of officials from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia Police Department, state and city law enforcement agencies including transit officers and campus police, and federal agencies are invited including the United States Attorney’s Office.

The scope of the task force will be limited to prosecuting unlawful person (felons) in possession of firearms and illegal transfer of firearms (straw purchases who buy guns for prior felons).

Each law enforcement agency that is a member of the Gun Violence Task Force would notify the task force of any gun-related arrest within 48 hours.

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The bill also allows the Pennsylvania Attorney General to assert primary jurisdiction in prosecuting these limited firearm possession and transfer offenses and requires the task force to issue an annual report on the number of gun cases, arrests and prosecutions in Philadelphia.

The new law would sunset in 2025.

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