Press Release

AG Shapiro Announces New Grant to Combat Gun Straw Purchases in Philadelphia

July 18, 2019 | Topic: Criminal

Partnership between Operation LIPSTICK and Mothers in Charge will educate Philadelphia-area women on dangers of straw purchases

PHILADELPHIA—Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that the Office of Attorney General is providing Operation LIPSTICK with a $123,000 grant. With this grant, Operation LIPSTICK will partner with Mothers in Charge to implement outreach initiatives for women in the Philadelphia area to educate them about the dangers of straw purchases.

Straw purchasing is when one individual buys a gun on behalf of another individual who is unable to purchase their own gun legally. Straw purchasing is the most common channel identified in trafficking investigations. Data from a national survey of firearm licensees suggests that there are more than 30,000 attempted straw purchases each year. In Philadelphia alone, the Gun Violence Task Force—a collaboration between the Office of Attorney General and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office—opens an average of 25 straw purchasing cases a month.

Operation Lipstick, which stands for Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing, is the only program in the country of its kind. It successfully works to prevent women from straw purchasing, purchasing firearms for prohibited purchasers including convicted felons. In Boston, Operation LIPSTICK helped achieve a 33% reduction in gun crimes by women.

“The gun violence epidemic that is plaguing our communities requires an all hands-on-deck approach—from law enforcement to retailers to consumers,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “As we fight the scourge of everyday gun violence, we must deploy preemptive education and outreach to warn people about the consequences of straw purchasing firearms. I’m honored to partner with Operation LIPSTICK and Mothers in Charge to raise awareness about straw purchases, and I know they will do great work with this funding.”

The goal of the partnership is to effect positive change in three target areas:

  1. Changing the prevailing culture that makes it acceptable for women to straw purchase, hide, or hold guns illegally.
  2. Expanding public awareness of straw purchasing as a serious crime with devastating consequences for straw purchasers and their community.
  3. Developing women into leaders equipped with the knowledge, tools, skills, and resolve to help their peers refuse to traffic guns.

The grant money will be put towards community workshops, school presentations, leadership trainings, media campaigns, public service announcements, and other effective outreach methods.

“LIPSTICK is the first program to shed light on the risks and consequences women face when they straw purchase, smuggle, store or hide guns for anyone who can’t obtain guns legally,” said Tamia Rashima-Jordan, LIPSTICK Executive Director. “And it works. LIPSTICK has been credited by Boston law enforcement with a 33% drop in gun crimes by women. We can have a similar impact in Philadelphia. The key to LIPSTICK’s effectiveness is that we put the power in women’s hands to change the way crime guns flow into and around their community.”

“The person who asks you to hide, hold, or store a gun for them is actually choosing their own safety over yours,” said Ebony LePenn, LIPSTICK Supporter, Survivor and Program Director, We Are Better Together. “Know your worth! Choose self-preservation! Say No! Saying No will save a life from incarceration or death.”

 Mothers in Charge is a violence prevention, education and intervention based organization which advocates and supports youth, young adults, families and community organizations affected by violence. Founded in 2003, Mothers in Charge are fearless advocates for those affected by violence—working for solutions on their behalf with the legislature and other organizations.

“I remember sitting in the courtroom at my son’s murder trial listening to the testimony of the girlfriend,” said Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight, Founder and National Executive Director of Mothers in Charge. “She described how she and her boyfriend went to a gun store right outside of Philadelphia where she purchased the gun that took my son Khaaliq’s life. Khaaliq’s life ended with a gun purchased by a straw purchaser, so many ladies are purchasing these guns and putting them in the hands of those that should not own a gun!!! This must stop!!!!”

Today’s grant is part of Attorney General Shapiro’s newly launched Track + Trace Initiative. Track + Trace deploys a smart-on-crime approach that involves partnering with law enforcement, gun retailers, and organizations like Operation LIPSTRICK and Mothers in Charge to reduce gun trafficking and violence in our Commonwealth. More information about Track + Trace can be found at www.attorneygeneral.gov/gunviolence/.

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