According to data released at the beginning of April, 17 people have been killed in Allegheny County as a result of gun violence out of 21 total homicides so far this year. Of those 17, 13 were African-Americans and two others were the result of a shooting at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic on March 8.
|REV. GLENN GRAYSON
At a candlelight vigil on April 11 in front of Community of Reconciliation Church, gun reform activists used the one-month anniversary of the Western Psych shooting to shed light on the devastating impact illegal guns have on the Pittsburgh community.
“We’re here to, on one hand, commemorate the one month anniversary of the Western Psych shooting, but also to get illegal guns off the street,” said Rob Conroy, western Pennsylvania field coordinator for CeaseFirePA. “It’s the most public manifestation of the issues that’s plaguing our communities.”
Among the many personal stories from speakers who have lost loved ones from gun violence, were revelations about how legislators play a role in ensuring illegal guns find their way into the wrong hands. Specifically, the activists were worried about Senate Bill 1438 and House Bill 1523, which punishes municipalities for passing lost or stolen gun legislation.
“I have a photo album of obituaries of my classmates who were lost to gun violence,” said Brandi Fisher, chair of the Alliance for Police Accountability. “These guns are not getting into our communities by accident. These guns are not walking into our communities. They are being bought legally and then resold illegally.
The answer is enforcing and passing legislation against that.”
According to District 3 City Councilman Bruce Krauss, who also spoke at the rally, the bills would allow a person to sue a municipality for their lost or stolen firearm regulations, which includes the 2008 lost or stolen gun legislation passed in Pittsburgh. However, Senate Bill 1438 actually extends opposition to any ordinances that regulate firearms and ammunition, which would make it difficult for law enforcement to even make a dent in illegal firearm trafficking.
“I think what we forget about is the children and families who are affected by this. I don’t want to say that we need to remove guns from the face of the earth, but it has affected me in a tremendous and very real way,” said Fisher, who also lost her brother to gun violence. “I think about my brother everyday. He was just a bystander who got hit and we never saw him again.”
However, another individual who lost a family member as a result of gun violence said he would be happy to see all guns removed from the face of the earth. Reverend Glenn Grayson, of Wesley Center AMEZ Church, has become an ardent anti-gun activist since his son, Jeron Grayson, was shot and killed in October 2010.
“I don’t think people realize the devastation gun violence leaves behind. My daughter and my son suffer everyday from the loss of my youngest son who was 18. I don’t want anyone to have guns because guns take lives. I just think sometimes what he would’ve been,” Grayson said. “I’m an advocate against guns. Any of the young men who I’ve talked to who have taken a life said they regret it and if they hadn’t of had that gun, it wouldn’t have happened. My son is gone forever.”
According to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, HB 1523 and SB 1438 represent “common sense firearms legislation that will keep law-abiding gun owners from becoming criminals.” A post on the organization’s website goes on to say that Pennsylvania already has a law giving the state the sole authority to make firearm laws.
“We have allowed the NRA to have too much power and influence. Trayvon Martin is lying in his grave because someone thought he looked suspicious. And our Black men are in danger because they’re killing each other. Guns are the culprit,” said Tim Stevens, founder of B-PEP. “Now, if you talk to any teen in an urban setting, they know at least 10 or 15 people who have been killed from gun violence. When I grew up in Wylie Avenue in the Hill District, I couldn’t make that statement.”
(To contribute to ongoing coverage of illegal gun trafficking contact Rebecca Nuttall at email@example.com)