Brad Fox Law keeps guns out of wrong hands

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - OPINION -

We’re not big fans of manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tenc­ing guide­lines. Many stud­ies in­di­cate they sim­ply don’t do what their pro­po­nents so loudly pro­claim — that is, de­ter crime.

We’re mak­ing an ex­cep­tion to­day.

And we have Of­fi­cer Brad Fox to thank for it. We sin­cerely wish that was not the case.

Fox is the Mont­gomery County po­lice of­fi­cer who was gunned down in Septem­ber 2012 while pur­su­ing a sus­pect. It turns out the gun used to snuff out the life of this young hus­band, fa­ther and law­man got into his killer’s hands in an il­le­gal prac­tice com­monly re­ferred to as a “straw pur­chase.”

That’s what oc­curs when some­one who is not al­lowed to pos­sess a hand­gun — very of­ten some­one with a crim­i­nal record — gets a weapon via a third party. That per­son goes through the process of ob­tain­ing or pur­chas­ing a weapon, com­ing up clean dur­ing all the back­ground checks, then promptly turns it over to some­one who could not oth­er­wise legally ob­tain a gun.

So great was the out­cry in the wake of the law­man’s mur­der, our usu­ally glacial Leg­is­la­ture moved quickly to pass what was to be­come the Brad Fox Law in 2013. It man­dates a manda­tory min­i­mum of five years in prison for any­one who takes part in an il­le­gal straw gun pur­chase.

Last week a Delaware County woman had the mis­for­tune to learn first-hand the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the law passed to honor the legacy of Brad Fox.

Staci Daw­son, 22, be­came the first per­son in Delaware County con­victed un­der the law, and very likely the first per­son in the state so ad­ju­di­cated.

She will have at least five years to think about her ac­tions, de­scribed by Delco pros­e­cu­tors as buy­ing weapons for an ex-boyfriend who was not al­lowed to pos­sess them.

Delaware County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jack Whe­lan trum­peted the news and made his of­fice’s po­si­tion clear. There is zero tol­er­ance for straw gun sales.

More im­por­tantly, he hopes it sends a mes­sage to any­one con­sid­er­ing do­ing a fa­vor for a friend, boyfriend or fam­ily mem­ber. Take part in a straw gun pur­chase and you are play­ing with fire.

“There are no ne­go­ti­a­tions by this of­fice with re­gards to th­ese cases,” Whe­lan said after the ver­dict, which came after an ear­lier trial in which the jury failed to reach a ver­dict and ac­quit­ted Daw­son of lesser charges. “If you’re go­ing to en­gage in the il­le­gal ex­change of firearms in this county, we are go­ing to pros­e­cute you and you are go­ing to spend a sub­stan­tial amount of time in a pen­i­ten­tiary.”

The peo­ple cops are deal­ing with as they bat­tle the scourge of ran­dom gun vi­o­lence that con­tin­ues to plague Ch­ester and other ar­eas are en­abled by straw gun pur­chases. For the most part, the per­sons wield­ing th­ese weapons with lit­tle or no re­spect for hu­man life are not ob­tain­ing their weapons legally.

This is not a Sec­ond Amend­ment ques­tion. It’s a mat­ter of street thugs — and their en­ablers, those who buy weapons and then put them in the hands of crim­i­nals. The re­sults, as was the case with Of­fi­cer Fox, are of­ten deadly.

Whe­lan spoke loud and clear when he said he hopes last week’s ver­dict sends a mes­sage to the street and in par­tic­u­lar to any­one con­tem­plat­ing a straw gun pur­chase.

You are play­ing with fire — and a long jail term.

Don’t be­lieve it? Just ask Staci Fox.

If it saves one life, the manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tence now in place in Penn­syl­va­nia will have been well worth it.

No doubt Brad Fox would con­cur.

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