There’ve been at least two shootings in Philadelphia parks and playgrounds this summer, which have killed one person and wounded more than a dozen others, prompting city leaders to call for a crackdown on the most violent gangs using proven intervention strategies alongside targeted enforcement.
Actually, that’s not true. They’re calling for a ban on guns in parks instead.
“No one’s Second Amendment rights, or no illegal guns, should have rights over our children’s constitutional rights. All of our children have a constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell during Wednesday’s news conference at Mander Playground in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia.
This isn’t a 2nd Amendment issue, Rep. Johnson-Harrell. This is a violent crime issue. This is a gang issue. This isn’t an issue of legal gun owners deciding to shoot up a playground. This is a matter of individuals illegally possessing guns who are committing crimes with them, and this proposal does jack squat to stop them.
Don’t believe me? Ask Anton Moore, a Democrat, community activist, and founder of the anti-violence group Unity in the Community. He doesn’t think this is going to be useful at all.
“You’re only really talking to the ones that are responsible with their guns already,” explained Moore. “We have to get to the ones that carry the guns illegally.”
He’s right, but that’s not going to be the focus of these politicians. Here’s why:
When you hear a lawmaker say we need to “do something,” what they mean is “I need to propose a law.” That’s what lawmakers do, after all. They make laws.
But there are already plenty of laws on the books in Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania to deal with the cretins who would shoot up a playground after the shooting has occurred. And no one honestly thinks that a gang member willing to engage in a shootout in a park full of kids is going to change simply because they see a sign warning them not bring a gun into that park because they might get a $2000 fine or possibly 90 days in jail. They’re willing to engage in a violent criminal act that could put them behind bars for decades if they’re caught and convicted. I don’t think they’re going to be too concerned about violating a municipal ordinance.
I call proposals like this “soundbite solutions.” They’re pithy proposals that sound fine in the ten seconds or so it takes for the lawmaker to announce them, but if you spend even a minute or two thinking about how the laws would actually work, the whole idea sounds absurd.
In Philadelphia, arrests are made in less than half of the city’s homicides. The clearance rate for non-fatal shootings is even lower. Criminals are using playgrounds as shooting galleries in part because they think they can get away with it, and they most likely will. A ban on guns in parks means nothing to them because they’re getting away with far worse. They’re literally getting away with murder more than half the time.
Residents in these high crime neighborhoods deserve better than the soundbite solutions they’re getting from their lawmakers. They deserve proven strategies that work, don’t require any new gun control laws, and can keep the city’s playgrounds, and streets, safe.