Harrisburg

With over 400 murders in Philly and little change in Harrisburg, gun violence prevention activists await Biden – The Philadelphia Tribune

Aliyah Raye voted in the November 3rd election, but the 20-year-old has had little time to think about politics this year. Raye's mother, Melanie, was fatally shot in North Philly in late August, and Aliyah is still in mourning.

Despite the pandemic, Melanie and Aliyah should end the year to celebrate. Melanie was about to get married and couldn't stop planning how "turned" the couple would be for Aliyah's 21st birthday.

"I'm still calling her phone to this day, I'm still texting and just hoping she'll answer," Raye said. There are still periods when eating and sleeping are impossible, she said, and she flips through photos of the couple together – before Aliyah's prom, after Aliyah's high school, and selfies of them just hanging out.

Gun safety and violence prevention policies – from the White House to Harrisburg to Philadelphia City Hall – are a long way off.

"I'm more concerned that the guy who killed my mother is being taken away," Raye said.

Invest in the prevention of gun violence

While the country waits for President Donald Trump to vote, gun safety advocates are already looking to a Biden Harris administration for stricter gun safety laws and federal funding for violence intervention programs.

During the campaign, the Biden-Harris ticket revealed a "Plan to End Our Gun Violence Epidemic," which contained promises to close laws that close loopholes that allow people to purchase a firearm if their background check doesn't come within three Business days as well as laws that provide for universal background checks.

One of the proposals supported by the campaign would be to provide a means for states to adapt the "extreme risk laws" that allow law enforcement agencies to take a person's firearms if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

In addition, the campaign proposed an increase in federal funding for research into the causes and prevention of gun violence, which was largely not funded until earlier this year.

And the Biden-Harris ticket promised to help the cities with the highest murder rates in the country – Philadelphia would likely be one of those cities.

"We will invest $ 900 million in evidence-based interventions in cities with high homicide rates," Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris told Philly Mag in an October interview about the city's greatest challenges.

That $ 900 million would be spread across 40 cities over an eight-year period, according to the campaign's website. The money would be split between the 20 cities with the highest number of murders and the 20 cities with the highest murders per capita.

"We can't move forward … if we can't keep people alive."

As of Tuesday, Aliyah's mother and 426 other Philadelphians were murdered that year, a number that has not been seen since 2007. This is a 40% increase in murders compared to that time last year, with more than a month in 2020. The number of people shot this year is more than 1,900 residents, an increase of over 50% over the previous year .

In the country's cities, only Chicago, which exceeds Philly's population by roughly 1 million, has seen more deadly gun violence with 684 murders this year.

"[Combating gun violence] has to be high on the list," said Councilor Jamie Gauthier of the Biden government's priorities.

Gauthier, in her first year on the council, in whose West Philadelphia district a six-year-old was shot in the chest in August, made it clear the city needs to fight gun violence more effectively. It introduced a resolution calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to declare gun violence a city emergency, which the city council passed in September.

So far, Kenney has not taken up the decision.

Gauthier argued that the statement could draw attention to the issue and potentially attract private sector investment, as well as the involvement of the city's academic and health organizations. The resolution also called for a careful assessment of the city's existing gun violence prevention efforts and their effectiveness.

"We cannot develop as a city if we cannot keep the people alive," she said. "We cannot address long-term issues like deep poverty if we cannot keep people alive. That has to be the most important thing we focus on."

Gauthier said Biden's victory offers a sense of hope that the federal government will complement local efforts by increasing funding for gun violence intervention programs.

"I should also say that I'm relieved that President Trump would never have focused on this issue," said Gauthier.

Keeping the pressure on politics

Of course, these presidential platforms are wish lists. With control of the Senate based on two runoff elections in Georgia, it is unclear how far Biden's government will go in tackling the problem 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 the activism going," said Marybeth Christiansen, a member of the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action, a national gun control advocacy group. "First of all, not so much for a particular law, because we are waiting to see what is going on in the United States Senate and what the president has to work with, but to make sure that the issue is not taken off the radar." It has to be in front and in the middle. "

Christiansen hopes that under a Biden government, the federal government will be able to advance weapons security measures as the General Assembly in the Commonwealth remains under the control of the GOP.

"In the collar counties, we lost some moderate Republicans who helped us on this matter," Christiansen said, adding that some of the gun security candidates would win "in the T of the state" and some collar counties around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. "It didn't happen, there weren't really any coattails."

The lack of allies leaves proposals like the introduction of a law on extreme risks on arrival dead.

Last year Franklin County Rep. Rob Kauffman, chairman of the House Justice Committee, said a "red flag" law would not be considered while he was chairman.

Philadelphia is trying to bypass Harrisburg's reluctance to put additional gun security measures in court. Last month, the city sued the Commonwealth to invalidate a number of regulations under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act and to pass its own gun laws.

As politicians figure out how to tackle gun violence and gun-related suicides, Aliyah Raye keeps asking police if there have been arrests related to her mother's fatal shooting. Despite a surveillance camera video of the man who shot Rye's mother, there was none.

Meanwhile, the number of murders in the city continues to rise, and Raye is skeptical that tightening gun laws can prevent those who shoot in areas like yours from accessing firearms.

"It's not the government that takes our loved ones, it's these men," Raye said.

She attributes the violence in part to a lack of opportunity and divestment in neighborhoods, but she doesn't think those are reasons to give shooters a pass. While Raye isn't sure how effective gun laws can be in curbing the kind of gun violence she sees in her community, she hopes lawmakers will ease purses to address some of the root causes exacerbating the problem.

"Once you're on the street, you know it's hard to get out," she said. "It's definitely like that, either dead or in jail."

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