Faith-based Philadelphians campaign to close gun shop, 2009.

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
action and outcome occurred in 2009, but campaigns started in 2008
2008-2009
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Philadelphia, PA
Location Description: 
Colosimo's gun shop
Goals: 
for Colosimo to accept a "Code of Conduct" that would keep better records of sells, and prevent selling to "straw" buyers (buyers who then sell or give the weapon to someone who wouldn't be able to get one, like a convicted criminal)
 

Philadelphia gun violence had increased sharply from 2000-2010, which
caused many groups and organizations to take a stance for gun law
reform. James Colosimo, 77 year old owner of a highly successful gun
shop on Spring Garden Street called Colosimo’s, was criticized severely
after the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
(ATF) rated his store one of the five worst gun stores in the country,
based on sales of guns that were eventually used in crimes. According
to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, between 1989-1996,
Colosimo’s sold 425 guns recovered from 10 homicides, 85 assaults, 30
robberies, and 300 additional crimes. Despite these records, Colosimo’s
provided most of the police department’s guns and equipment for 40
years. Their location was conveniently located a few blocks north of
the Police Administration Building, and a few blocks east of the
Fraternal order of Police Lodge.

To start their campaign, Heeding God’s Call (HGC), a grassroots
community advocacy group campaigning to prevent gun violence, introduced
a code of conduct for firearms retailers in 2008 and 2009. Because
fighting to change legislation proved difficult and unrewarding, HGC
changed their group’s goal to pressuring retailers to prohibit “straw”
handgun purchases. Straw purchasing refers to people buying guns and
then selling them or distributing them to people unable to get a gun on
their own, usually because of their prior convictions.

The Code of Conduct included installing video cameras at the point of
sale, computerized gun trace log and alert systems, employee background
checks and training, and inventory checking. In 17 January 2009, group
members went to Colosimo to ask if he would accept the code, and he
refused. They continued to hold gatherings outside his store in
protest. This action took place amidst a five day national gathering of
peace gathering leading up to Martin Luther King weekend. During this
time, HGC campaigned for gun violence prevention and against Colosimo’s.
During two days of civil disobedience, police arrested two people
during a rally of nearly 100 people demanding that Colosimo’s accept the
code. On 26 May 2009, 12 activists were arrested for trespassing and
conspiracy charges during a protest in which they entered Colosimo’s and
refused to leave until he accepted the Code of Conduct. When he kicked
them out, they stood right outside the door. The Philadelphia Police
Department arrested them, and they spent a night in jail until
arraignment. They were all found not guilty.

These accumulating events finally came together during a prayer vigil
for those affected or killed by gun violence in front of Colosimo’s on
21 September 2009. More than 300 people attended. The following day,
the US attorney for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania announced that
the store’s owner, James Colosimo, had been charged in federal court for
his illegal sales to straw purchasers. Colosimo’s illegal gun selling
was brought to the attention of the US government when the first
statistics came out, but was not pushed to the top of their “to-do” list
until the campaign gained momentum. Colosimo faced maximum punishments
of five years’ probation and up to $200,000 in fines. He pleaded guilty
willingly and accepted the charges. Colosimo waived his right to a
grand-jury hearing, and the charge was filed under a criminal
information, meaning that the defendant planned to plead guilty. He was
then barred from applying for another license to sell guns in the
future, and his existing inventory was sold to other vendors.

Colosimo acknowledged his role in selling to straw buyers, but made it
clear that he never meant to intentionally. Colosimo’s attorney, Joe
Canuso, as well as the U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage concluded that
the criminal charge originated from bad record-keeping, and the
corporation of Colosimo’s was charged with making false statements and
failing to properly maintain firearms-transaction records. Colosimo
himself was not charged, and the plea was made on behalf of the
corporation. The court officially revoked his license on September
30th. In May, after months of campaigning, Colosimo was acquitted of
all charges, but the store was officially shut down.

“The campaign will be carried to other Delaware Valley gun shops and the
eventual goal is to have all gun shops in the Commonwealth to adopt the
Code of Conduct,” said Bryan Miller, a participant, and executive
director of Ceasefire NJ. The campaign proved an even bigger success
than intended for originally. The group continued to target other
stores, using this victory to motivate them.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Anon. n.d. “About Us.” Our Missions and Objectives. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150318225800/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/about-us).

Anon. n.d. “Code of Conduct.” Code of Conduct. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150318225039/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/code-conduct).

Anon. 2009. “Editorial: Spiritual 'power' Brings Down Colosimo's.”Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184314/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/editorial-spiritual-%E2%80%98power%E2%80%99-brings-down-colosimo%E2%80%99s).

Anon. n.d. “Faith leaders arrested while seeking Colosimo’s adoption of Heeding’s Code of Conduct.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184339/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-3).

Anon. n.d. “Heeding God’s Call offers Good Friday worship service in the street in front of Colosimo’s Gun Center, attended by hundreds.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20130917050720/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-5).

Anon. n.d. “Heeding God’s Call organized a series of public events connected at Colosimo’s Gun Center during a national faith-based peace gathering, including a faith leader press conference and a rally.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184455/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-2).

Anon. n.d. “Heeding God's Call's Public Attention to Colosimo's Practices Leads to Action by Federal Authorities.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150216222547/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-9).

Anon. n.d. “In late May ’09 the ‘Heeding Twelve’, faith leaders who had been arrested at Colosimo’s Gun Center in January, were tried and acquitted – to much public and media attention and acclaim.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184621/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-7).

Anon. n.d. “Philadelphia-area faith leaders meet with owner of notorious gun shop to seek adoption of Code of Conduct to diminish straw sales and handgun trafficking.” Recent Events. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184643/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/event-1).

Anon. 2014. “PHILADELPHIA HOMICIDES DROP SHARPLY IN OCTOBER.”Statistics, November 7 . Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184705/http://guncrisis.org/category/statistics/).

Clark, Vernon. 2009. “Colosimo's Gun Shop Closing Is Imminent.”Philadelphia Inquirer, November 29 . Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184802/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/colosimos-gun-shop-closing-imminent).

Gammage, Jeff. 2009. “At a Notorious Gun Shop, the End of an Era.” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 30 . Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20110218024043/http://www.heedinggodscall.org/content/notorious-gun-shop-end-era ).

Graham, Troy. 2009. “After Years of Controversy, Colosimo's to Close.”Philadelphia Inquirer, September 23 . Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184903/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/after-years-controversy-colosimo%E2%80%99s-close ).

Hinkelman, Michael. 2009. “Colosimo's Gun Shop to Lose License.”Philadelphia Daily News, September 29. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329184950/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/colosimos-gun-shop-lose-license).

Keenan, Suzy. n.d. “Heeding God's Call to End Violence.” NEWSpirit! Eastern Pennsylvania Disciples of Jesus Christ . Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150329185026/http://heedinggodscall.org/content/heeding-gods-call-end-violence).

O'Reilly, David. 2009. “Clergy Targeting Gun Dealers.” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 13. Retrieved March 29, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20100714003238/http://www.heedinggodscall.org/content/clergy-targeting-gun-dealers ).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Clare Perez, 3/29/2015