The merciless killing of a harmless man who mowed neighborhood lawns is a tragic example of Philadelphia’s rising tide of homicides, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. At the end of last week, Philadelphia’s 2005 toll of homicides stood at 297 – 13 percent higher than the 263 killings logged during the same period last year. The year’s body count could be the highest in five years. The surge defies the trend elsewhere. New York and Baltimore have seen a dip in homicides this year compared with last, while Chicago has remained stable. Said sociologist Patrick Carr of Rutgers University: “We’re running counter to the trend.”
Philly’s numbers are still nowhere near the 10-year high in 1995 of 431 homicides. Experts blame the easy availability of guns as a significant factor in the current bloodshed. About 80 percent of Philadelphia’s homicides are by gun – one of the nation’s highest gun-homicide rates. The national average is about 70 percent, sayst he FBI. Experts say Pennsylvania’s lax gun laws mean that nearly anyone – even the most hardened criminals – can get his hands on a firearm. “We have the most lenient gun laws in the entire nation,” said Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. There’s no waiting limit to purchase a gun, no permits necessary to own one and no limit to the number of pistols you can buy. It’s easy for people to buy guns and pass them along to felons without any penalty.