As the nation mourns the deaths of the 26 people killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and many other cities are dealing with increasing gun violence.
As of press time there have been 321 homicides in Philadelphia and 94 in Pittsburgh for 2012.
Philadelphia is not unlike many other urban cities with large African-American and Hispanic populations.
The shooting deaths of hundreds of young Black and Hispanic men, women and children are a far too common occurrence in our nation’s streets.
“Those are the victims whose voices have gone unheard,” said Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “Everyone is understandably angry and heartbroken over the mass murders at Sandy Hook School, but since it happened 10 people were shot in Chicago. I think the timing to push for this will never be better. Let White America push through these laws, because God works in mysterious ways—and maybe the murders in Connecticut are a message to White America that gun violence is not a Black problem, but an American problem.”
Despite the plea of past and present Philadelphia mayors, police chiefs, local elected officials and the marches and rallies of anti-violence community groups, the Republican controlled legislature in Harrisburg and its conservative Democratic gun-rights supporters has refused to take any serious actions on reasonable gun control legislation.
Perhaps the best chance for gun control legislation is on the federal level.
Two Philadelphians are positioned to help influence the national debate.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors under the leadership of Mayor Michael Nutter has asked the president and Congress for tougher gun control laws. The mayor has been visible on national television speaking out on the need to ban assault weapons and other gun control measures.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the president of two national police organizations, will be part of a panel ordered by President Barack Obama to spearhead an effort to create proposals to reduce gun violence.
From their experience of leading a major city plagued by gun violence Nutter and Ramsey are in the position to educate our national leaders that what happened in Newtown, Conn., is part of a larger long-stemming problem with guns and gun culture and that urgent action is needed.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)