Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Did you catch Tuesday's editorial in the Delco Times?

Saturday members of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based anti-gun violence coalition, once again staged a demonstration outside Miller’s Sporting Goods Discount Hunting & Shooting Supplies in Lower Chichester, where they have been regulars since fall 2013.
They were not there to protest the sale of firearms but to protest the method in which they are sold. Miller has not done anything wrong, but his shop was the source of illegally purchased guns by the first two people in Pennsylvania convicted under the state’s “Brad Fox Law” enacted in 2013. Named for a Montgomery County police officer killed with a gun acquired through a straw purchase in 2012, it requires a minimum of five years in prison.
Members of Heeding God’s Call are campaigning against what they describe on their website as the highly developed illegal trade of gun trafficking made possible through “criminal entrepreneurs, traffickers, the straw buyers who stand in for them to make their bulk purchases and gun dealers who look the other way and enjoy the profits.”
They apply pressure to gun dealers to sign their Code of Conduct for a “Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership” that includes videotaping the point of sale, computerizing gun trace logs, accepting only valid federal or state picture IDs and conducting criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.
Miller insists he has been compliant with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives and made background checks first, over the phone through the Instant Check Unit that was established July 1, 1998, and, since Feb. 8, 2014, via computer. Miller said he also videotapes every gun purchase.
In Heeding God’s Call’s open letter to Miller Saturday, members said they respected his compliance.
“But the recent convictions of two individuals for straw-purchasing handguns at your store demonstrates that these requirements alone do not prevent guns from leaking onto the streets. Straw buyers may still put guns into the hands of felons, domestic abusers and other who would use them to threaten, wound, maim and kill,” they wrote.
In February 2013, Staci Dawson, 22, of Chester bought two guns from Miller’s store for her 22-year-old boyfriend, a convicted felon who had been a suspect in at least two homicides in Chester.
Last August she was convicted in Delaware County Court on two counts of illegally transferring firearms to another person and related charges. Last November she was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail and seven years probation.
The same day Dawson was sentenced, Ashly Judge, 27, of Montgomery County, was convicted in Delaware County Court on two counts of illegally transferring handguns, one of which she purchased at Miller’s store last July 20. She also illegally bought guns at the Double Action Indoor Range at Yeadon Industrial Park which is located in Upper Darby last June 3 and 27. On Jan. 8 Judge was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.
Miller insists that two straw purchases out of an estimated 100,000 gun sales in the 45 years since his father, Max, founded the business, is not a bad track record.
Ninety percent of guns connected with crimes were traced to five percent of the nation’s gun stores in 2000, said Heeding God’s Call member Fran Stier. Updated statistics are not available because of 2003 amendments named for U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas, that removed from the public record a government database that traces guns recovered in crimes back to dealers. They also force the FBI to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within 24 hours and prohibit ATF agents from requiring gun dealers to submit their inventories to law enforcement.
to read more, click here

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In Sunday's Delco Times: Saturday's Vigil at Miller's



Online shoppers to Miller’s Sporting Goods Discount Hunting & Shooting Supplies Saturday could find a wealth of handguns specials posted, including a .40 caliber Walther for $599, a .40 caliber Beretta for $475, a Taurus “Public Defender” for $489 and a .357 caliber Ruger for $479.
“We now offer a 2 percent discount for cash for firearms,” it is noted on the recently-mounted website for the store that is located at 1576 B Chichester Ave. in Lower Chichester.
Outside the gun shop Saturday afternoon demonstrators carried T-shirts bearing the names of Delaware County residents shot to death, prayed, and circulated an open letter to shop owner Joseph Miller. They were not protesting the sale of the firearms, but were once again entreating Miller to voluntarily institute a stricter system or “code of conduct” in the way he sells his merchandise.
While he has not been charged with any crime, his shop was the source of illegally purchased guns by the first two people in Pennsylvania convicted under the state’s “Brad Fox Law” enacted in 2013. Named for a Montgomery County police officer killed with a gun acquired through a straw purchase in 2012, it requires a minimum of five years in prison.
“We mean them no harm, we’re just talking about a code of conduct. We’re not trying to close them down,” said Fran Stier, a member of Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based anti-gun violence group that has been regularly staging demonstrations outside Miller’s store since the fall of 2013.
Among the speakers at the demonstration were Movita Harrell-Johnson and Yancy Harrell of Lansdowne who talked about their son, Charles Andre Johnson, who was shot to death in Philadelphia in a case of mistaken identity Jan. 13, 2011, four months before his own son was born.
Members of Heeding God’s Call are campaigning against what they describe on their website as the highly developed illegal trade of gun trafficking made possible through “criminal entrepreneurs, traffickers, the straw buyers who stand in for them to make their bulk purchases and gun dealers who look the other way and enjoy the profits.”
They apply pressure to gun dealers to sign their code of conduct for a “responsible firearms retailer partnership” that includes videotaping the point of sale, computerizing gun trace logs, accepting only valid federal or state picture IDs and conducting criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.
Miller maintains that he has been compliant with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives regulations in the manner he has sold firearms.
“I don’t think people realize how complicated it is today,” Miller said after the demonstration outside his store Saturday afternoon.
Miller noted that he has made background checks with Pennsylvania State Police for every customer first over the phone through the Instant Check Unit that was established July 1, 1998, and, since Feb. 8, 2014, via computer. Miller said he also videotapes every gun purchase
to read more, click here

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pictures from today's vigil at Miller's
















Good vigil today -- warm weather -- thank heavens yesterday's snow melted.  Many dozens showed up.  On the other hand, Miller's had parked their pickup and a customer's pickup opposite the store, and the car alarms went off whenever someone brushed against the truck, and then they'd call the police...

Movita and Yancy spoke so movingly of their son Charles, killed 4 years ago, and Charles son, born less than a month after his father's death.  All we could do afterwards was hug them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jill Leovy (author of Ghettoside) on homicide in Watts (not very different from homicide in Chester)

DAVIES: So when you say conveying the horror of it, it's the relentless carnage - one murder after another, after another, after another - and that becomes apparent when one looks at your blog. Practically speaking, that must have been exhausting. I mean, every case has real people. Everyone has grieving relatives that want you to tell their whole story. How did you manage it?
LEOVY: Well, it is carnage. It's not the carnage that's horrible, though. It's the grief and the sadness of it that is - that will make your hair stand on end, and that is very, very difficult to deal with. The actual fact of bodies and blood is much easier to deal with than what you find when you go to somebody's house five years later and they're still shaking and weep instantly when you say the name of their loved one.
In fact, "The Homicide Report" was the easiest homicide reporting I did in all my years of homicide reporting, and there was a reason for that. And I knew it going in. I think in some ways, at that time, I needed it. It's because mostly, I was dealing with victims' families right after the homicide. That's a time when - in the normal course of reporting, that's when you usually meet victims' families - that first 48 hours, that first week, maybe, before the funeral, and, you know, that's the easiest time because people are in shock. They are in a state of suspended disbelief. They don't know what to think. They're kind of frozen and wide-eyed, and it takes time with something as traumatic as homicide for the reality to sink in. And so it's a lot harder to interview people three months later, six months later. Two years can be a really grueling point, I found - five years, very, very grueling. Homicide grief is very distinct, I think, from other kinds of bereavement, and the trajectory of it can be different.
DAVIES: How?
LEOVY: There's no way to fit it in any kind of understanding of the natural order of things. It's always going to feel colossally wrong. It's going to feel like something's been taken from you arbitrarily by another human being. The way people respond to homicide deaths of loved ones - it's the worst pain that I've seen a human being experience that isn't physical. It's astounding what people go through, and it often gets worse as the years go by, instead of better. Doing "The Homicide Report," I had people who contacted me who had lost their loved ones 20, 30 years before, and would say, you know, I'm just going through my hardest phase now.
There was a woman I interviewed. Her son was a black man, I think in his 20s or 30s, maybe even a little bit older - an adult, black man that got no coverage. She would go to the cemetery at night, and she would lie, overnight, spread-eagled on the grave. It's - I've heard stories like that from other people, too. The other version of it that I've run into is going to the spot on the street where the son is killed and lying there.
To read more, click here.