OUR YOUTH are the most important resource we have, so we must protect them from senseless acts of gun violence if we hope to build a better future for Philadelphia. As a young man who grew up in South Philadelphia, I have watched illegal guns proliferate around the city.
More guns are confiscated now than when I was younger, and the weapons recovered are more dangerous assault-style weapons. My own cousin was killed in an act of gun violence at 17th and Dickinson Streets in the 1990s, inspiring me to become a public servant and work full time to reduce youth gun violence.
As a councilman, I have spoken at countless funerals, and hosted rallies, vigils and marches for victims of youth gun violence. Some question whether these events are effective; my response is that every day a young person is shot, or murdered, is a new reason to bring attention to addressing the issue of youth gun violence.
This should be the No. 1 priority for Philadelphia as we transform into a world-class city.
We should be outraged that the car accident death rate, the No. 1 killer among people under age 25, is dropping seven times faster than the gun death rate. In 2014, Philadelphia's firearm-related homicide rate (13.26 per 100,000 people) was well above the national average. Philadelphia records more than 1,000 nonfatal shootings that maim and disable victims each year.
Gun violence also disproportionately affects minorities in low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia, creating an impediment to neighborhood rejuvenation and harming the quality of life for everyone. Gun violence is a major contributor to Pennsylvania's massive prison population, one of the highest in the country and composed disproportionately of minorities.
As summer approaches each year, we see an increase in gun violence, and this is holding true for 2016. To date, March 2016 has proved 10 percent more deadly than March 2015. A few weeks ago, six people were slain in one unusually warm night. Last week, three shootings occurred in one hour on a warm Wednesday.
This Monday at 10 a.m., City Council's Committee on Public Safety will hold a hearing regarding the establishment of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate youth gun violence.
Enough is enough.
We must implement a comprehensive plan with clear goals and specific policy recommendations to eliminate gun violence. In doing so, we must restrict access to guns, get young people employed so they are not incentivized to pick up guns, and further develop effective community programs.
The loss of life because of gun violence should never be normal. Youth gun violence is not another fact of life; it's a critical issue we must address now.
Kenyatta Johnson is a member of the Philadelphia City Council.