In this morning's 6-2 Supreme Court decision, the crime of reckless domestic violence and abuse is now considered a misdemeanor that justifies firearms possession restriction. What does that mean? It means closing one of the many gaping loopholes in gun control legislation and cracking down on violent domestic crime. Most importantly, it means safer homes for those most at risk: women (especially women of color), LGBTQ+ folks, and children.

The Voisine v. United States decision extended the previous ruling in United States v. Castleman that declared the “firearms possession by convicted felons” illegal. So why wasn’t this a thing before?

On the books, there’s a distinction between recklessly and knowingly committing a crime, known as mens rea—their state of mind during their actions. Stephen Voisine, the man in question in this case for repeatedly becoming violent against his girlfriend, argued in court that actions charged as reckless shouldn’t be considered under the umbrella of crimes that would prevent him from buying a gun.

Virginia Villa, Voisine’s defender, argued that recklessness doesn’t necessarily constitute a “use of force.” This puts in perspective why this pretty big issue hasn't been put in the books before. She explained that she once had a client who plead guilty to a misdemeanor because he was running away from someone attacking him, and when he ran through a door and slammed it, it caught and broke the attacker’s fingers. Um, comparing a drunken assault on someone to an escape measure? I don't think so.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wasn’t having this excuse either, and shot back remarks that almost closed the case right then. While in Villa’s example, the client didn’t mean to hurt the man running after him, he still did. In many domestic violence cases, Kagan explained, reckless conduct between the perpetrator and victim is what leads to violence—not the use of direct violent force. Tell 'em, girl! 

Basically, the Court decided it was time to validate all the domestic violence that happens while the perpetrator is under the influence and otherwise in a volatile state that causes their actions to be executed recklessly. This is a win for feminism, equality in the home, and in finally making movements on reigning in this country’s insane, libertarian approach to gun-owning.

Yeah, it's about time.

If you want to listen to more of the case, here's a video of the whole ordeal—with dogs instead of justices (no cameras are allowed to film Supreme Court case proceedings).

Original Article via Bust: http://bust.com/living/16586-another-feminist-win-from-the-supreme-court.html

Sheriff de Philadelphia Jewell Williams y el personal participaron en el esfuerzo de toda la ciudad National Night Out el 31 de julio y el 1 de agosto en 8 lugares entregando Free Gun Locks e información adicional sobre lo que hace la Oficina y cómo comprar propiedades en Sheriff Sales.

Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams and staff participated in the National Night Out city-wide effort on July 31 and August 1 at 8 locations by handing out Free Gun Locks and additional information on what the Office does and How To Buy Property at Sheriff Sales.

Philadelphia, July 3 - Sheriff Jewell Williams will urge youngsters to have a peaceful summer as he visits children’s programs this summer.

The Sheriff will “deputize” children who take a gun safety pledge as part of his Summer of Peace initiative, according to a news release.

The effort was kicked off at the end of the 2016-17 school year, when Williams visited several schools to spread the summer of peace message.

The Sheriff and Canine Carter — a member of the Sheriff’s K-9 unit — visited the Greenfield School in Center City and the Powel School in West Philadelphia to educate students about how to “stay cool” when they encounter conflicts and what to do if they find a gun at home or in their neighborhood, according to a news release.

“Be respectful, don’t bully and most importantly, if you see a gun, don’t touch it,” said Williams. “Immediately tell a parent, a nearby adult and if you are alone in a home call 911.”

According to Children’s Defense Fund, a child or teen dies by gun in the U.S. every three hours and eight minutes.

Having a gun in the home makes the likelihood of accidental death four times higher and more than half of youths committing suicide by gun found it at home and it usually belonged to the parent, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The office pointed to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatricians that indicated “Nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children and minorities are more likely” to fall victim to gun violence than others. In 2015, 42 percent of gun deaths were among Black children and teens.

“Don’t be a statistic,” Williams told the children when introducing Canine Carter to students at the Samuel Powel School in Powelton Village. “Use your mouth, not your fists or weapons, to settle differences. Don’t let things escalate.”

The Sheriff will be pressing this message during the months when youngsters may find themselves on the streets in tense situations: “In the warm weather months things can easily heat up. Giving kids the message they can keep themselves safe or prevent a crime is powerful and maybe if they hear it often enough they will practice what we preach. Summer is a time for fun, visiting the beach, having picnics and barbecues. I want them to stay cool in every way and help us all to have a summer of peace.”

As part of the Summer of Peace activities, the Sheriff is reaching out to groups of children at church and summer camps to take the following gun safety pledge:

I will never play with guns; if I see a gun, I won’t touch it.

I will remember that any gun I see might be loaded.

I will never go snooping or allow my friends to go snooping for guns in the house.

If I find a gun, I will tell a grown-up I know right away.

I know how important it is to keep myself safe.

Throughout the summer, the Sheriff’s Office will carry its safety message to outdoor festivals, summer gatherings, children’s programs and block captains, the news release stated.

The Office of the Sheriff is also working with Philadelphia Integrated Town Watch and Temple University Medical School’s summer outreach program to distribute gunlocks this summer to city residents to help keep children safe.

The Sheriff and City Council President Darrell Clarke began the gunlock program in August 2016. To date, more than 3,000 free gunlocks have been given to Philadelphia families through the Sheriff’s Office and City Council offices. Philadelphia residents can pick up free gunlocks at the Sheriff’s Office any weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 100 S. Broad St. on the 5th floor. For more information call (215) 686-3572 or visit www.phillysheriff.com.


Tribune Staff Report / The Philadelphia Tribune

You'll keep your phone, but in a locked bag

If you have business Monday at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, expect delays.

It’s the first day of a new court policy requiring most civilians entering the building to turn off their cellphones and put them into a magnetically sealed “Yondr” pouch that keeps phones locked within a designated no-phone zone.

You’ll be able to keep your cellphone with you, but you won’t be able to use it. When you’re ready to leave the courthouse at 13th and Filbert Streets, you’ll return to court personnel, who will unlock the pouch and return the phone.

“It’s a 21st century solution to a 21st century problem,” Jacqueline F. Allen, administrative judge for the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, said at a recent news conference unveiling the new system.

Not that there won’t be a learning curve before the public gets used to the new policy.

Court administrator Joseph H. Evers said added personnel will be in the courthouse lobby Monday to help guide the public through the phone-bagging process and security. He said the courts have acquired 4,500 Yondr pouches at a cost of $50,000.

The new system is court officials’ latest effort to deal with the problems caused by cellphones in a criminal courthouse. Rarely does a day go by without somebody’s cellphone going off in one of the building’s 11 floors of courtrooms.

Usually, the offender’s phone is confiscated by court personnel and returned at the end of the day. But sometimes an offender is incarcerated or fined for contempt of court. And then there is the continuing problem of intimidation: friends of people on trial taking surreptitious photos of witnesses to post on social media.

Years ago, people entering the courthouse were required to surrender their cellphones at security. The phones were placed in individual locked boxes until the owners left the building.

The system was scrapped because of the delays it caused and complaints that phones were damaged or returned to the wrong person.

“The new system keeps the phones in their hands,” Evers said. “It makes them their responsibility, not ours.”

Allen said she first read of the Yondr mobile phone locked box in an October article in the New York Times about how entertainers including Dave Chappelle have begun using them to prevent interruptions and recordings of their concerts.

Yondr has said the Philadelphia criminal courthouse is the first to use the phone pouches for all courthouse visitors.

Evers said the courthouse collected about 3,500 cellphones daily when it used its own locked box system.

Complaints about the new system are likely to come from lawyers who cannot phone clients who are late for a hearing and clients who can’t find their lawyers.

Some people will be exempted from the new requirement: current and former judges, current court employees, lawyers and law enforcement personnel with proper identification, people with disabilities who need an electronic device to communicate, credentialed news reporters with ID.

Jurors will not have to use the pouches but will surrender their phones to courtroom personnel if picked for a trial.

For everyone else, Evers had a suggestion that these days seems almost quaint: Use the pay phones on each floor of the Criminal Justice Center.


Written by Joseph A. Slobodzian for the Inquirer.

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Members of the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office were dispatched Friday to a South Philadelphia Five Below store for an important job - to buy gifts for children who need a little help this holiday season.

"Disabled veterans' families were going to be doing this year. We're also going to be doing family shelters, we're going to be doing schools. It's just all the way around. We're trying to reach as many families, the less fortunate," said Sheriff's Office Inspector Michael Bastone.

The list of who they are helping has expanded since the office started this tradition several years ago. The sale of T-shirts have raised more than $5,000 this year for the gifts.

"We have shirts printed every year, sheriff's shirts, which have a nice toy drive on the back. We sell these shirts for $20, and then the proceeds is used for the toys," said Bastone.

After making their list and checking it twice, they carried the goods away until it's time to play Santa.

"For us it's really great. To do this it's awesome. I mean it really touches our hearts for many of the officers," said Bastone.

Santa has a sleigh, and the Sheriff's Office has their own transport van and an entire fleet. They will use those vehicles to transport the toys to the children starting Saturday.


Reported by Annie McCormick for 6ABC News.

Even before he begins his new role as Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro wanted to assess the climate of the state’s most pervasive social justice issues from people who work with them everyday.

For Philadelphia, the highlighted issue was community gun violence.

So, with the help of Council President Darrell Clarke, the pair gathered top ranking officials like Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Sheriff Jewell Williams and District Attorney Seth Williams, and put them, literally, at a round table discussion with community-based organizations who work to help eliminate gun violence and support the families affected by it everyday.

“I consider myself someone who the community and the drug dealers or shooters look up to from my past,” said Michael Daniels, an organizer with the Philadelphia Anti Violence Coalition and an anti-gun violence organization called EDGE.

Daniels detailed his activism, which includes traveling to the homes of victims and perpetrators of gun violence, and trying to intervene before a situation escalates.

The Tuesday round-table panel discussion took place at the Stephen Klein Wellness Center near on Cecil B. Moore Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets.

The meeting included many of Philadelphia’s top and well-known anti violence advocates including: Bilal Qayyum, founder of the Father’s Day Rally Committee; Derrick Ford TK roles; Anthony Murphy, executive director of Town Watch Integrated Services; Dorothy Johnson Speight, founder of Mothers In Charge; Movita Johnson-Harrell, founder of the Charles Foundation; and several others.

Shapiro said at the meeting the boots-on-the-ground anti-violence advocates were now members of his new, non-traditional transition team. He will begin his role as attorney general in January.

“I don’t want the perspective of the insiders,” Shapiro said. “I want the perspective of the people.”

And he got it.

One particular perspective that surprised Shapiro came from 24-year-old John Solomon, a former perpetrator of gun violence turned anti-violence worker.

“How old were you when you picked up a gun for the first time?” Shapiro asked Solomon, nephew of anti-gun violence community organizer Darryl Shuler.

“I want to say around 11,” Solomon replied.

Solomon said he got the gun from a friend, and didn’t feel guilty about carrying it on occasion because guns were so pervasive in his community.

“Seeing it growing up, it kind of normalizes carrying guns,” he said. “It becomes normal in our culture.”

Out for more than a year after serving a nearly five-year sentence for a violent act, Solomon said it was prison that enabled him to slow down and see the broad impacts of gun violence.

Organizers at the panel discussed reaching children like Solomon before their situations escalate.

Education is a tool, according to Shuler, a community member who works on the ground closely with victims and perpetrators of gun violence, but for kids who are already using guns, sometimes it’s not enough.

“We need people like myself and other people sitting around this table to be able to go in this community and change the mind set,” he said.

Shuler also spoke on improving police, community relations, and applauded D.A. Williams for his new police-involved shooting protocol.

Economic empowerment was a tool many of the organizers said they use to help steer community members away from gun violence.

Ruben Jones, executive director of Frontline Dads, said his organization helps participants with “transitional employment.”

Terry Starks of Philadelphia Ceasefire uses entrepreneurship to uplift at-risk populations. His family is an example, he said, with his children each running a basketball camp, a dance team and making their own juice, between them.

Starks, who said he was just elected a ward leader in the city, had a message of solidarity for the officials.

“You can’t think that you’re by yourselves right now, because you’ve got somebody here on the other side that’s just scraping over there to see who’s going to help us too,” he said.

While every organization represented stood behind their community and advocacy work, many pointed to lack of resources to continue the work.

Every Murder Is Real uses a “holistic and trauma-informed approach” to addressing the impacts of gun violence in Philadelphia, the organization’s founder Chantay Love said Tuesday. They lobby in Harrisburg and partner with local hospitals to train medical staff what trauma looks like in African Americans and how to treat it.

“We are the grassroots, and no we don’t get the funding,” Love said. “They like our data, they like what we do, but they don’t really want to partner.”

Not just money, Ceasefire PA Executive Director Shira Goodman said elected officials can help community gun advocates find data on where guns are coming from and how they’re being acquired.

“We need to know that data exists,” Goodman said. “It is hidden behind the walls, you have the power to work with police jurisdictions across the state. The state police can get it.”

Ultimately, said Harrell-Johnson, “We just want the homicides to stop.


Written by Layla A. Jones for the Philadelphia Tribune.

Attorney General-Elect Josh Shapiro hosted an event Tuesday to learn more about gun violence in the Philadelphia area.

Shapiro presided over a conference table at a health clinic in North Philadelphia. Seated closest to him were some of the city’s bold-faced names, including Police Commissioner Richard Ross, District Attorney Seth Williams and Council President Darrell Clarke. Elsewhere around the table were leaders of various organizations, such as Mothers In Charge, CeaseFirePA, and Father’s Day Rally Committee, who have been working on this issue for years.

“Where are these guns coming from? We need to know,” Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA said. “That data exists. It is hidden behind some walls. We have the power to work with police jurisdictions across the state to get it.”

Shapiro could not guarantee more funding for these groups, but he said he would like the state attorney general’s office to work more closely with them and “get them rowing in the same direction.” He also wants to collect the missing data on how illegal guns used in crimes are trafficked in the state.

“I was stunned at the number of guns that are coming from Pennsylvania that were on that chart,” Shapiro said. “I think it’s important that we gather that data in Pennsylvania as well.”

Shapiro also said he wants to expand the Philadelphia gun violence task force and push for a statewide requirement to report lost and stolen guns.


Written by Jeff Dempsey for CeaseFirePA.