Is This What Democracy Looks Like? Really?!

The battle between District Attorney Larry Krasner and Republicans in Harrisburg is yet another example of the paternalism the Commonwealth shows to its largest city.

Earlier this week, Larry McGlynn and I participated in Democracy Day, a program put together by the Center for Cooperative Media to spotlight the threats to democracy and how news organizations can fight them.

While the show was being broadcast on PhillyCam, someone might want to send a copy of it to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order in Harrisburg. They seem to be having a problem with that concept.

On Tuesday, by a 162-38, mostly party-line vote — 10 Philadelphia area Democrats joined the Republicans — the House of Representatives voted to find Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in contempt for not sending records from the DA’s office that the committee wants to use as part of an impeachment effort it’s undertaken against him.

Now, the reason this committee wants to impeach Krasner is because they blame his reform minded policies for the uptick in gun violence in Philadelphia. But while Krasner, the Philadelphia Police Department and Mayor Jim Kenney should accept responsibility for the gun violence crisis, Harrisburg’s at fault too.

That’s because being a parent is hard work. And since the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seems to want to treat the City of Philadelphia like a child, it has to accept the blame when the child does something wrong.

Now the cynic in me has an idea of why the folks in this so-called Committee to Restore Law and Order have decided that Krasner has to go. Most of the folks occupying the state’s prisons come from Philadelphia. If you’re not arresting and prosecuting enough Philadelphians, unemployment in places where the cows outnumber the people goes down. Since they’re the ones that keep sending you to the state legislature, you’ve gotta keep ‘em happy.

But like I said, that’s my being a cynic.

My real problem is that the group of Republicans that have cooked this committee up have had a whole host of other opportunities to show Philadelphians that they’re serious about stopping gun violence on the streets of the city that basically serves as the Commonwealth’s ATM.

(Oh, you didn’t know that the City of Philadelphia and the millions in tourism dollars it generates through the Historical District and events like Made In America and the Roots Picnic has been bankrolling the Commonwealth? Remember that the next time you’re told that equitable funding for the School District is a non-starter.)

City Council has passed a whole bunch of legislation over the last few years designed to take on gun violence both directly and indirectly. It’s passed legislation that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns, legislation that would regulate the number of guns you can purchase in a year, and other regulations designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have access to them.

And what has the Pennsylvania Legislature has done with those regulations? They’ve struck all of them down through a process called preemption that says any legislation passed by a municipality that covers a state function can be negated by the state.

Add that to the fact that the Commonwealth’s gun regulations have so many holes in them Swiss cheese looks at them and says “Wow! That’s a lot of holes!”, and you get a situation where 14-year-olds are engaging in shootouts at city recreation centers and taking out people’s loved ones.

So, if the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order is really serious about making Philadelphia safer, negating the will of the city’s voters by impeaching their district attorney isn’t the way to do it.

Allowing Philadelphians to protect themselves by letting those elected to serve them legislate on their behalf is.

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