Gun Control Lawyer To Carry Gun After Threats

MARTHA RAFFAELE
Associated Press
Friday, April 27, 2007 

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Philadelphia lawmaker who supports tougher gun-control laws said Thursday he will likely start wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying his gun more often after receiving a threatening e-mail.

Rep. Jewell Williams said during a news conference on gun control that he would ask police to investigate an e-mail he received Thursday morning from an Allentown resident saying Williams should be shot for supporting Rep. Angel Cruz, also a Democrat from Philadelphia.

Williams, a former police officer who has a gun permit, said he also felt threatened by a gun-rights rally Tuesday during which two participants held up a banner calling for Cruz to be "hung from the tree of liberty." The message was protesting legislation sponsored by Cruz to require gun registration and a $10-a-gun annual fee.

"Now that I hear this attitude of people recommending lynching, I'll probably be wearing my gun more and possibly wearing my bulletproof vest, because we now think we're being threatened," Williams said.

A spokesman for the Capitol Police, Edward Myslewicz, said no formal complaint had been filed Thursday about either the banner or the e-mail Williams said he received.

Black lawmakers denounced the banner's message as racist and "a terroristic threat."

Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-Delaware, sent a letter Wednesday to the state police commissioner, Col. Jeffrey B. Miller, in which he demanded a "thorough and full investigation" of the banner. The rally attracted hundreds of gun-rights supporters.

"I believe that certain members of this organized rally were so displeased with Rep. Cruz's legislation that they wanted him dead," wrote Kirkland, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

A spokesman for Miller said Thursday that he had seen a picture of the banner and would refer Kirkland's letter to Capitol Police.

"It's more of a legal question. ... Is it protected speech or is it something that was intimidating or threatening?" Miller said. "It probably has to be determined by a district attorney."

Cruz said Thursday he plans to amend his bill so that only Philadelphia residents would have to register their guns under a pilot program. He said he would offer details at a news conference Monday.

"If we could establish a significant gun registry system for the city, we could track illegal guns and discourage people from selling them for illegal purposes," Cruz said in a statement.

The gun-control news conference took place just before the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on proposals to limit gun purchases to one per month and require the reporting of lost or stolen handguns.

Diane Edbril, executive director of CeaseFirePA, an organization that supports "one-gun-a.m.onth" legislation, referred to the banner in her testimony before the committee.

"We are all being held hostage by a small gang of thugs who have hoodwinked the General Assembly into thinking that we cannot and should not do more to prevent handgun violence from ruining our lives and our commonwealth," Edbril said.

One of the committee's members, Rep. Will Gabig, took issue with Edbril's statement, calling the two protesters "a couple of derelicts who have been condemned by the entire House."

"To try to broad-brush the people on the other side is a little bit of rhetorical flair that I find a little hard to take," said Gabig, R-Cumberland.

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