Philadelphia officials touted a “gun turn-in” event held over the weekend as a way to reduce the increase in shootings in the city, but while the event went off without a hitch and even managed to collect a few dozen firearms, it didn’t have an impact on the violence on city streets.
At least seven people were killed and more than 25 others injured in shootings and stabbings over the weekend in the city of brotherly love, which is actually an increase compared to the previous weekend in the city. In fact Philly police had to dodge bullets as they attempted to break up a block party that had swelled to several hundred individuals after shots were fired, wounding five people.
The homicide rate is now the highest that it’s been since 2007, and city officials have responded with ineffectual ideas like asking people to hand over unwanted firearms. From WPVI-TV in Philly:
Guns and ammunition could be turned in at two locations, at churches in Germantown and Point Breeze. Both are areas that have experienced recent gun violence.
“Every gun off the street is a gun that could potentially end up, and be involved in a shooting,” said Bilal Qayyum, president of Father’s Day rally committee, which helped organize the day’s firearm disposal.
In total 43 guns were turned in, which is a step in the right direction to help save lives, especially children’s, whose lives have been innocently caught in the crossfire of shootouts.
“Right now we’re facing an emergency here in the city of Philadelphia when it comes to gun violence, we’ve seen children being shot and murdered, we’ve seen pregnant women being shot and murdered,” said [Philadelphia City Council member Kenyatta] Johnson.
Note the anti-gun bias on the part of the local television station. Is the turning in of 43 guns really a “step in the right direction” if a) these guns aren’t being used in crimes and b) violence actually increased during the weekend that the turn-in event was held? The goal here shouldn’t be to try to make Philadelphia “gun free,” which is virtually impossible. The goal should be to get people to stop shooting one another.
In order to do that, one community activist says the answer isn’t more gun control laws, but a greater emphasis on “violence interrupters” in high crime neighborhoods.
Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME and a member of the Power to Live Free campaign, which addresses gun violence, told NBC10 resources should be invested back into the communities that struggle the most with violence.
“If we go block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood and develop a unique plan and find the credible messengers in those communities, in every community there is somebody who can stop the violence in that community,” he said.
Reverend Tyler referred to those individuals as “violence interrupters.” He believes the city’s gun violence can and will be curbed if the city creates paid positions with adequate training for them.
“Persons whose only job when they wake up and go to bed is to make sure this community is safe,” Reverend Tyler said. “When they hear of an impending beef between two groups they are there to intervene and to try to point people into a different direction.”
I think that programs like the one described by Reverend Tyler have their place. Studies have shown that they can be effective in reducing homicides and shootings, though there’s much stronger evidence showing that violence interrupters are more successful when they’re part of an overall strategy that combines violence reduction efforts alongside increased federal prosecution for repeat, violent offenders.
Unfortunately for Philly residents, District Attorney Larry Krasner has taken a soft-on-crime approach instead. A perfect example of his office’s mentality was a plea deal recently negotiated with 31-year old Jovaun Patterson, who shot a man back in 2018 as he was washing his car. Krasner offered Patterson a 3-to-10 year prison sentence, which likely would have resulted in Patterson being set free after serving less than two years behind bars.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain, however, stepped in and took over the case, bringing it to federal court, where last week Patterson received a 14-year sentence.
“The law-abiding citizens of this city know where the U.S. Attorneys Office stands. We stand with them and our law enforcement partners,” McSwain said.
McSwain says his office will continue taking cases from the district attorney if the time doesn’t meet the crime.
“Jovaun Patterson has been sentenced to over 14 years in federal prison … and now will serve what we think is an appropriate sentence,” McSwain said.
If Philadelphia officials are serious about stopping violent crime, they’re going to need the help of federal prosecutors, not just violence interrupters. Sadly, it looks like the Democrats in charge of Philadelphia are banking on a strategy that relies on the party taking control of the state legislature in November, undoing statewide firearms preemption, and imposing all kinds of new local gun laws on Philly residents instead of getting tough on the city’s violent criminals.