With over 400 homicides in Philly and little change in Harrisburg, gun violence prevention activists look to Biden – WHYY

Keeping the pressure on politicians

Of course, these presidential platforms are wish lists. With control of the Senate resting on two runoff races in Georgia, it’s unclear just how far Biden’s administration will get in tackling the issue of gun violence or funding prevention efforts — with a pandemic still raging — should the Senate remain under Republican control.

“I think the challenge for us is to keep up the activism,” said Marybeth Christiansen, a member of the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action, a national gun control advocacy organization. “Not so much initially for a specific law, because we’re waiting to see what plays out in the United States Senate and what the president has to work with, but to make sure that the issue doesn’t get taken off the radar. It’s got to be front and center.”

Christiansen is holding out hope that the federal government under a Biden administration can advance gun safety measures because the General Assembly remains under GOP control in the commonwealth.

“In the collar counties, we lost some moderate Republicans who helped us on this issue,” said Christiansen, adding her group hoped some of the candidates backing gun safety measures would win “in the T of the state” and in some of the collar counties around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. “It didn’t happen, there weren’t really any coattails.”

The lack of allies leaves proposals like establishing an extreme risk law dead on arrival.

Last year, Franklin County Rep. Rob Kauffman, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, famously said so long as he was chairman a “red flag” law would not be considered.

Philadelphia is trying to circumvent Harrisburg’s reluctance to pass additional gun safety measures through the courts. Last month, the city sued the commonwealth so it could invalidate a set of regulations under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act and pass its own gun laws.

As politicians figure out how to address gun violence and gun-related suicides, Aliyah Raye keeps asking police if there have been any arrests in connection with her mother’s fatal shooting; there haven’t been, despite video from a home surveillance camera of the man who shot Raye’s mother.

Meanwhile, the number of homicides continues to rise in the city, and Raye is skeptical that tightening gun laws can prevent those doing the shooting in neighborhoods like hers from accessing firearms.

“It’s not the government taking our loved ones, it’s these men,” said Raye.

She does attribute the violence, in part, to a lack of opportunities and disinvestment in neighborhoods, but she doesn’t think those are reasons to give shooters a pass. Likewise, while Raye isn’t sure how effective gun laws can be in curbing the type of gun violence she sees in her community, she hopes lawmakers will loosen the purse strings to address some of the root causes that exacerbate the issue.

“Once you in the street, you know, it be hard to get out,” she said. “It’s definitely like, either dead or in jail.”

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