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Philly sheriff calls AR-15, shotgun, pistols ‘high-powered artillery weapons’

An AR-15 style rifle, shotgun, two 9mm handguns and assorted magazines and accessories captured by the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office. (Philadelphia Sheriff's Office photo/Released)
August 06, 2021

Last Friday, Philadephia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal described an AR-15 style rifle, a double-barreled pump-shotgun and two 9mm handguns as “high-powered artillery weapons” as she described her office’s work in capturing those four firearms while arresting 37 area fugitives in police raids.

At a press conference reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bilal stood behind a table with the AR-15 style rifle and four fully loaded magazines, the double-barreled shotgun loaded with 10 rounds, one 9mm handgun loaded with 13 rounds and another 9mm handgun.

“These are very high-powered artillery weapons, and this is why this city keeps fighting for gun control,” Bilal said. “Why are these type of weapons in our city? No war is going on. Why?”

“We want to find out how they’re bringing these guns in so we can stop that,” Bilal continued.

Merriam Webster defines “artillery” as large-bore weapons, especially those used for long-range and indirect fire. Artillery weapons are typically crew-served, being operated by multiple people. Semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, shotguns and handguns can all be operated by a single user.

Pennsylvania also has no specific laws prohibiting the ownership of AR-15 style rifles, shotguns and handguns, according to FindLaws.

The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office’s predawn raids, known as “Operation Priority Takedown,” targeted a total of 176 fugitives wanted for crimes including homicide.

Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Vernon Muse told members of the media that the raids began at around 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 27, and the last raid ended at 6:30 a.m. Friday, July 30.

In total, 37 of the wanted fugitives were arrested.

“Every gun taken off the street and every individual arrested with an outstanding warrant is a step in the right direction,” Bilal said. “We will continue to work, with the support of our partners, to capture those with outstanding warrants and make the streets safer. There is more work to do every day as we deal with this unprecedented surge in gun violence. This work does not stop here. We will play our part as law enforcement.

Bilal also said, “Thirty-seven is better than zero. One gun is better than none.”

The police raids also resulted in the capture of 13 jars of marijuana, and 87 marijuana plants, with an estimated $400,000 value.