In a weekend bookended by the anniversaries of the horrific hate crimes at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Philadelphia suffered 16 shootings in the city, with 26 people shot and four killed. The shootings occurred at a deli, on South Street – a gathering spot for residents as well as tourists -- on a playground, and at a graduation party in a park. The graduation party shooting might meet the technical definition of a mass shooting, with six people shot; but with only one person killed, it was reported in the B section of the paper and likely won’t make national news.
Nowhere seems safe – places of worship, places we go for entertainment, workplaces, the places we go to do the everyday mundane things, like buying a sandwich at the corner store. We deserve better than this.
Twenty-six of our fellow Philadelphians were shot this weekend, four are dead. We can’t begin to calculate all that our city has lost – what contributions would the lost have made. They may have become our children’s teachers, coaches, doctors, or city leaders. We often fail to consider the costs for those who were injured and survived: medical care, emotional trauma, lost wages, and lives forever changed. We must acknowledge that the lives shattered but saved by our excellent trauma teams are still shattered. Some of those people will never work again, will live with long-term injuries, and might wake up with nightmares for years. The economic costs – in emergency and ongoing medical care, the lost wages, the costs families bear – are tremendous.
All of those who witnessed the shootings, who were there but did not get shot, who raced to hospitals to check on loved ones – they too are victims of the violence. How can we expect them to go to work or school or behave the same way? We can’t. The fear, the stress, the trauma is real, and it is robbing our city of our best and most valuable resource. We cannot afford to continue like this, with each year costing us more lives than the year before.
This is an emergency and a public health crisis. We know that our city leaders and officials feel the weight of this crisis. We know they want to protect this city and make it safe. We know that the Philadelphia legislative delegation to Harrisburg wants to give city leaders the tools they need to address this problem, and we know they are stymied by their colleagues in Harrisburg, who are willfully blind to the struggles of Philadelphia and other municipalities. Harrisburg has claimed for itself the sole power to regulate firearms. So, it is time to demand that Harrisburg regulate firearms. They must not be allowed to sit idly by while our cities suffer 26 people shot in one weekend. It is time for real action – money must be allocated and spent, we need to get the guns off the street, we need to prioritize this crisis.
Pennsylvania’s full-time legislature is still in session, working to pass a budget by June 30. After they do that, they will leave Harrisburg and spend the summer in their home districts – for many, far away from the news of Philadelphia and other cities. This is the time they must act.
The new budget must include the funds Philadelphia and other cities need to really tackle the gun violence problem, including community based violence prevention programs. The mayor, Council, and police need real tools, and that costs money. The legislature should also enact laws to give Philadelphia and other cities the power they need to deal with this crisis. Harrisburg is jealously guarding power it fails to use, because it cowers to the gun lobby. Their failure to use that power should be viewed as an abdication of that power. If they won’t act, they must allow the cities to take action.
Our gun violence problem is a problem that demands solutions that our elected officials can deliver. But that’s on us, and we must hold them accountable. If you live here, call your cousins or friends who live in Bucks County, or Adams County, or Lackawanna County. Make sure they know what’s happening in Philadelphia and ask them to call their legislators and demand that they take action to help our cities solve this crisis.