Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal

Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Oh dear. It can be so difficult to keep track of things like guns, can’t it? It seems that the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office — an operation well-known for its public service and rectitude — has managed to misplace a number of firearms that were entrusted to it. Where they could have gone is, well, a mystery.

Rebecca Rhynhart, Philadelphia’s Controller, just released a report exposing the unaccounted-for firearms.

After receiving a complaint alleging that 15 rifles and shotguns had been missing from the Sheriff’s Office gun inventory since 2016, the Controller’s Office opened an investigation into all firearms under the purview of the Sheriff’s Office.

Once the Controller started turning over rocks, the problems she found were far bigger than just 15 guns.

The investigation found that 101 service firearms and 109 PFA weapons were missing from the Sheriff’s Office inventory. The review also identified other issues with the overall management of the Sheriff’s Office gun inventory. In response to the review, Sheriff Bilal expressed her willingness to improve the management of her office’s gun inventory and to implement recommendations outlined in the report.

PFA weapons? PFA stands for protection from abuse. That’s Pennsylvania’s equivalent of a “red flag” law, where an individual can petition the court to have an abuser’s firearms removed.

So not only have 101 of the Sheriff’s Office’s own service weapons gone walkies, but another 109 confiscated guns — guns belonging directly to taxpayers — have disappeared, too.

But it’s nice that Sheriff Bilal has committed to addressing the problem, isn’t it?

“It’s unacceptable that more than 200 guns that should be in the Sheriff’s Office custody cannot be located,” said Controller Rhynhart. “The public needs to trust that the Sheriff’s Office is a reliable steward of its own property, as well as the personal property given to the Sheriff’s Office for safekeeping. I want to thank Sheriff Bilal and her office for their cooperation during this investigation.  While many of the issues identified pre-date Sheriff Bilal’s administration, I hope that she will take quick action to track down the missing guns, if possible, and ensure proper maintenance of the gun inventory moving forward.”

Shockingly, the Controller’s review found that the Sheriff’s Office has, shall we say, lax systems in place for keeping track of guns that have been entrusted to it. To sum it up, the Sheriff has inadequate or incomplete service weapon records, no inventory management procedures and the armory was a mess with service guns mixed in with confiscated PFA firearms and some weapons stored while loaded.

Newsweek reports that Sheriff Bilal — she’s been on the job since January (the last Sheriff is currently in prison) — blamed the entire problem on her predecessor. But rest assured, she’s all over it now.

“The armory is now secure with state-of-the-art security cameras, motion sensors,” Bilal added. “There are individually assigned entry codes to track specifically who enters and exits, at any given time, of the armory”.

As for finding any of the 210 missing firearms, Philadelphians probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

Sheriff Bilal said her office will continue to work to locate the missing firearms and the investigation will continue to determine any possible criminal liability. …

“Our investigation did find evidence of trading at gun shops with city sheriff’s office guns,” Rhynhart said, adding that the situation was “very, very problematic.”

You don’t say.





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