Philadelphia, February 28, 2011: District Attorney Seth Williams is pleased to announce that former State Representative Bryan Lentz will now be supervising the city’s Gun Violence Task Force.
“I have known Bryan for decades now,” says District Attorney Seth Williams. “He is not only a tremendous leader; he is also an innovative visionary. The Gun Violence Task Force has done outstanding work since its inception in 2006. In the past Al Toczydlowski has provided great leadership for this unit, and with Bryan now leading the charge I look forward to continued and even greater efforts from the Task Force.”
Bryan Lentz was the Democratic State Representative for Delaware County from 2006 until last year. While in Harrisburg, Bryan advocated tirelessly to close the so called Florida loophole that allows people who are denied a gun permit in Philadelphia to receive one from Florida. Research has shown that many of those guns have found their way onto Philadelphia streets, and have been involved in numerous crimes in the city. Before becoming a legislator, Lentz was in private practice and he also served the Commonwealth in the District Attorney’s Office from 1993 to 1999. While he was an Assistant District Attorney Bryan specialized in gang and violent crime prosecution. He officially becomes the Chief Supervising Special Assistant District Attorney for the Gun Violence Task Force on Monday, February 28, 2011.
Since it began in December 2006, the Task Force has opened over 1550 investigations involving the illegal transfer of firearms, made over 500 arrests, and seized close to a thousand firearms. In addition, the Task Force has assisted Philadelphia Police in solving numerous shootings, burglaries, robberies, and homicides. To date, the Task Force has convicted over 330 individuals of straw purchasing and other gun trafficking offenses.
With funding from the State Legislature, the Gun Violence Task Force was launched to attack the proliferation of illegal guns on city streets. Composed of veteran investigators and seasoned prosecutors, and working in close coordination with the Philadelphia Police Department, the Task Force began operations in Southwest Philadelphia and has since expanded into all six of the city’s police Divisions.
Under Pennsylvania law, a convicted felon is prohibited from purchasing a firearm. Licensed gun dealers require proof of identity and perform a record check prior to making a sale. Unable to legally purchase firearms from a licensed dealer, felons use false identification or hire “Straws”, citizens with no criminal record, to purchase guns for them. The “Straw”, after buying the gun and delivering it to the felon, frequently reports the gun as stolen in an attempt to avoid criminal responsibility when the gun is later used in a crime. Felons also illegally purchase weapons “on the street” – most often guns stolen in burglaries.