Editorial: The strength of a prayer

Philadelphia Inquirer - 09/26/2009

Dozens of faith-based activists who had no more authority than the moral force of their cause deserve20much of the credit for shutting down one of Philadelphia's worst sources of handguns used in crimes.

Given the carnage on city streets from illegal weapons, the apparent success of the daily protests by Heeding God's Call sure beats singing a few verses of "We Shall Overcome."

Not that protests should be needed to prompt federal enforcement of firearms laws. Nor should newspaper exposés, such as the 2006 Inquirer articles about the suburbs' former mecca for crime guns, Lou's Loans of Upper Darby.

But it's clear that activism of the Heeding God's Call variety - as well as the increasingly vocal Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign in Pennsylvania - is the best hope for pushing back against National Rifle Association opposition to commonsense trafficking safeguards.

Among those needed reforms: Requiring gun owners to report any lost or stolen weapons to thwart straw buyers, and limiting handgun buyers to one a month.

Members of Heeding God's Call began regular protests in January outside gun dealer James Colosimo's store at 10th and Spring Garden Streets. That ramped up public pressure on federal authorities, who long had reason to suspect illegal gun sales originated at Colosimo's.

A Good Friday service near the gun shop attracted an impressive 250 people who prayed for peace, while the most recent protest occurred Monday.

Without acknowledging a link to the protests, the U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday accused Colosimo's of selling 10 guns to people who employees "knew or had reason to believe" were illegal straw buyers fronting for gun traffickers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) also announced plans to revoke Colosimo's federal firearms license - a move that, Colosimo's attorney said Wednesday, would result in the gun shop's closing.

Colosimo denies he knowingly sold weapons to illegal buyers. He chalked up the fact that he had sold so many guns used in crimes to his high-volume business. The ATF charges contradict that claim.

A cruel irony is that Colosimo's is just blocks away from the city Fraternal Order of Police union hall, too often draped in black in honor of officers gunned down.

What's important now is that a major source for guns in crimes has been shuttered. As Bryan Miller, executive director of Cease Fire New Jersey, said, "Law-abiding citizens should rejoice."

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