Brad Fox Law keeps guns out of wrong hands
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.