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As more people get guns and carry permits, Philly sees a sharp rise in homicides ruled justified

Mensah M. Dean, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

While he was not criminally charged, Perkins-Owens said he was fired for having a gun on company property. Asked for comment, Dollar General provided a number for a media relations firm. That number turned out to be nonworking.

It was not the first time a would-be thief had threatened violence while Perkins-Owens was working at the store, which does not have a security guard, he said. In an earlier robbery attempt, a man threatened to stick him with a hypodermic needle while exiting the store without paying for merchandise.

Off the job, Perkins-Owens said he was shot in the leg and grazed in the hand during a hail of stray bullets outside a Germantown convenience store in 2019. He bought a gun after that. He said he didn’t hesitate to reach for his weapon when the man in the ski mask arrived at his store.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but victims are tired of being victims,” he said in an interview at his home in the Ogontz section. “People are actually standing up for themselves and are making robbers think twice about taking hard-earned money from everybody else.”

'Quick with the gun now’

Amid gun violence that keeps claiming more and more victims, a growing number of Philadelphians are buying guns, statistics from the State Police show.

 

The number of handguns purchased in the city more than doubled to nearly 50,000 in the two-year period ending in 2021. Just 22,000 were bought during the years 2018 and 2019. Permits to carry guns on the streets have grown even faster, soaring to 52,000 last year, up from 7,500 in 2020, according to State police figures.

With more crimes and more people buying guns, there are more situations that lead to gun owners using them in defense. This has fueled the uptick in homicides ruled to be justified, Krasner and other law enforcement officials said.

“It’s not a secret that the proliferation of guns everywhere across the country, especially in the city, means that there’s more guns on the streets,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Naish. “We have seen an increase in the number of people that have been applying for and receiving a permit to carry. I think that they are concerned about their safety, and they’re carrying it legally, which is the big difference.”

Stanley Crawford, who in 2020 co-founded the grassroots activist organization Families of Unsolved Murder Victims Project after the slaying of his son, said while the growing trend of people legally arming themselves was troubling in many ways, it could nonetheless deter criminals.

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