04/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Common Good Victimized by Group Loyalty: Gun Control in Philadelphia

Watching C-SPAN's live coverage of Washington's mindless partisanship reminded me of how the blind loyalty that prevents agreement on health care reform is not an affliction unique to Capitol Hill. Group thinking retards evolution at all levels of American life, e.g. race, religion, sexual orientation. You don't have to be elected to higher office to stand in the way of progress.

We're right, you're wrong. You're wrong, we're right. Truth and the common good are no longer priorities. All that matters is on which side of the debate you stand.

How else do you explain the bizarre video below? During a vigil on Sunday outside a mom-and-pop gun shop in a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia, three blocks from where a teenage boy was shot and killed on Feb. 5, dozens of advocates for a more responsible system of gun sales began to say The Lord's Prayer.

Meanwhile, a group of gun advocates calling themselves the Valley Forge Patriots ("Welcome Grassroots Conservatives," its website reads) shouted insults, waved the American flag, and sang "God Bless America." It was an attempt to drown out The Lord's Prayer. Apparently "God Bless America" can overcome the best known prayer in Christianity.

The prayer vigil was led by an interfaith group called Heeding God's Call, which is attempting to curb illegal (not legal) gun sales and gun violence. The group includes members of the neighborhood where the gun store (the Shooter Shop) operates. It requests only that firearm retailers sign a voluntary ten-point code of conduct. In a push to reduce "straw purchases" -- people who buy firearms with the intent to resell them to people unable to buy guns legally -- the list asks that gun stores run criminal background checks on their employees and videotape customers, among other things (see list below).

Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), a coalition of more than 300 U.S. mayors, created the code of conduct two years ago and Wal-Mart, the nation's largest seller of firearms, agreed to abide by it.

Predictably, the National Rifle Association began referring to MAIG as an "anti-gun coalition" and called its "gun-grabbing agenda" an assault on the Second Amendment's right to "keep and bear arms."

Shane Claiborne, who lives three blocks from the Shooter Shop and whose charity, The Simple Way, participated in Sunday's prayer vigil, says no one is attempting to put responsible gun store owners out of business.

"We are very specifically saying that we are not protesting to shut (the Shooter Shop) down. We are only asking that the Shooter Shop take advantage of the opportunity to lead with integrity."


1. Videotaping the Point of Sale for All Firearms Transactions. Participating retailers will videotape the point-of-sale of all firearms transactions and maintain videos for 6 months to deter illegal purchases and monitor employees.

2. Computerized Crime Gun Trace Log and Alert System. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will develop a computerized system that participating retailers will implement over time to log crime gun traces relating to the retailer. Once the program is in place, if a customer who has a prior trace at that retailer attempts to purchase a firearm, the sale will be electronically flagged. The retailer would have discretion to proceed with the sale or stop the sale.

3. Purchaser Declaration. For sales flagged by the trace alert system, participating retailers will ask purchasers to fill out a declaration indicating that they meet the legal requirement to purchase the firearm.

4. Deterring Fake IDs. Participating retailers will only accept valid federal- or state-issued picture IDs as primary identification. Retailers will utilize additional ID checking mechanisms.

5. Consistent Visible Signage. Participating retailers will post signage created by the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership to alert customers of their legal responsibilities at the point-of-sale.

6. Employee Background Checks. Participating retailers will conduct criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.

7. Employee Responsibility Training. Participating retailers will participate in an employee responsibility training program focused on deterring illegal purchasers. The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership will create an online training system based on Wal-Mart's training program.

8. Inventory Checking. Participating retailers will conduct daily and quarterly audits. Guidelines will be based on Wal-Mart's existing audit procedures.

9. No Sales Without Background Check Results. Participating retailers would prohibit sales based on
"default proceeds," which are permitted by law when background check has not returned a result within 3 days.

10. Securing Firearms. Participating retailers will maintain firearms kept in customer accessible areas in locked cases or locked racks.

(Participating retailers will phase in the provisions of Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership over time.)