City officials have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the positive turns the COVID-19 pandemic has taken – last week the city reported two fatalities from the disease, a far cry from …
City officials have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the positive turns the COVID-19 pandemic has taken – last week the city reported two fatalities from the disease, a far cry from periods at the pandemic’s peak when more than 200 people died in a single week.
But just as the dangers of COVID are receding, the city finds itself facing an all-too-familiar crisis: gun violence. Mayor Jim Kenny gave the first of what will be a biweekly press conference on the state of gun violence in the city on Wednesday, March 17. At that time, the city reported 103 fatal shootings, which are part of 380 shootings. The pace is one that will again break records after last year saw gun crime at its highest rate since 1960.
“The number of guns that are on the street is irrational and crazy,” Kenney said Wednesday.
Public officials around the country are struggling with the same as the number of violent gun crimes climb up to levels not seen since the War on Drugs era of the early 90s. According to Gun Violence Archives, which has been tracking gun deaths and injuries since 2014, the number of non-suicide gun deaths in the U.S. has been rising almost every year. In 2014, the group tracked 12,418 deaths. In 2020, that number was 19,380, a 64% increase over seven years.
It shouldn’t be surprising that gun violence has taken such a leap during the pandemic. Inequality has increased, school and other programs designed to keep young people occupied have been reduced or canceled entirely. Domestic violence has also increased. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday that domestic violence incidents are up 30%.
While Philadelphia will be looking at ways to address contributing factors – everything from graduation rates to persistent poverty – there is only so much any municipality can do. Gun laws are set by states with some Federal standards in place.
The U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, led by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, will hold hearings this week to address measures that could help take guns out. A popular measure they will no doubt discuss is one that would close the so-called “gun show” loophole that allows private sellers to sell guns without conducting federal background checks. According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll, 84% of voters, including 77% of Republicans, support a background check on all gun purchases.
Another popular measure that will be on the table is a federal waiting period of 10 days. The theory behind waiting periods is that it can reduce so-called “crimes of passion,” including suicide. This measure has seen a renewed focus by gun control advocates after the killing of eight people at several Georgia massage parlors last week by a gunman who purchased his weapon the same day as the killings.
Accepting gun violence as a routine of American life must end. There are plenty of common-sense options that preserve Second Amendment rights to own guns but make it much less likely that guns fall so easily into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.