The mayor of Philadelphia has joined a growing chorus of calls for America to take action on gun control after a dramatic shooting incident in which six police officers were wounded as they served a drug warrant.
The officers were injured as part of a night of drama which saw a tense standoff eventually resolved when the suspected gunman was taken into custody. It is believed he had an automatic rifle and he exchanged multiple bursts of gunfire with police which saw civilians run for cover in a densely populated part of the city.
That prompted Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney, to call for greater restrictions on guns.
“Our officers need help. They need help with gun control. They need help with keeping these weapons out of these people’s hands. This government, both on federal and state level, don’t want to do anything about getting these guns off the streets and getting them out of the hands of criminals,” he said.
Kenney also attacked the gun rights lobby in the shape of the National Rifle Association, which has repeatedly worked to stymie almost every effort at gun control. “And if the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA and some other folks, then let us police ourselves. But they pre-empt us on all kinds of gun control legislation,” he said.
“Our officers deserve to be protected and they don’t deserve to be shot at by a guy for hours with an unlimited supply of weapons and an unlimited supply of bullets. So it’s disgusting and we have to do something about it,” he added.
The calls come after recent twin mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that have sparked yet another round of America’s national conversation about its epidemic of gun violence and what to do about the heavy weapons that are readily available to millions of people across the country.
The shooting that caused Kenney’s ire began around 4.30pm local time on Wednesday as officers went to a home in a north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone rowhomes to serve a narcotics warrant in an operation “that went awry almost immediately”, Philadelphia’s police commissioner, Richard Ross, said.
Many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get [away] from a barrage of bullets”, Ross said.
The six officers who were struck by gunfire have been released from hospitals.
Two other officers were trapped inside the house for about five hours after the shooting broke out but were freed by a Swat team well after darkness fell on the residential neighborhood. Three people who officers had taken into custody in the house before the shooting started were also safely evacuated, police said.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” Ross said.
Police implored the gunman to surrender, at one point patching in his lawyer on the phone with him to try to persuade him to give up, Ross said.
Temple University locked down part of its campus, and several children and staff were trapped for some time in a nearby daycare center.
Police tried to push crowds of onlookers and residents back from the scene. In police radio broadcasts, officers could be heard calling for backup as reports of officers getting shot poured in.