AMID ESCALATING GUN VIOLENCE INVOLVING YOUTHS, CITY COUNCIL, ANTI-VIOLENCE ACTIVISTS, ST. CHRISTOPHER’S HOSPITAL PARTNER ON GUN BUYBACKS

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, Featured, Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – As gun violence continues at record levels, including among young people under 18, City Council, the Father’s Day Rally Committee, Philadelphia police, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and other anti-violence advocates and public officials are partnering on another Gun Buyback this weekend in Philadelphia.

Council members, executives and trauma specialists at St. Christopher’s Hospital, anti-violence advocates and a family member of a 10-year-old girl who died in a gun tragedy inside a home gathered at the hospital in North Philadelphia today to highlight the next Gun Buyback, taking place Saturday at two churches in South and Northwest Philadelphia.

Saturday’s Gun Buybacks will be the fifth in a series of buybacks held this year in Philadelphia, in which nearly 500 firearms have been taken out of homes in exchange for $100 gift cards given to participants which they can exchange for groceries at local stores.

As of July 11, Philadelphia has experienced 294 homicides and 1154 shooting victims this year – a 34 percent increase in homicides and a 25 percent increase in shootings over last year. More troublingly, over 100 of the shooting victims this year have been under 18 – a 40 percent increase over last year.

Moreover, in the last several weeks, two 10-year-old children have died in fatal gun accidents inside Philadelphia homes when the children apparently picked up firearms that were not locked or kept in secure locations.

Four City Councilmembers attended today’s press conference, held at St. Christopher’s Hospital, which is a sponsor of the ongoing Gun Buyback initiative being spearheaded by Bilal Qayyum of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. The Councilmembers were joined today by hospital officials, trauma doctors, faith leaders, a U.S. congressman, and Warren Miles, the father of 10-year-old Shanyiah Miles, who died in one of the accidental shootings earlier this month.

“Gun buybacks are one tool in a deeper toolkit of strategies which the city is deploying to reduce and prevent this totally unacceptable level of gun violence in our communities,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). Clarke noted that in the recent city budget negotiations, Council and the Kenney administration reached agreement on a budget that includes $155 million in spending on gun violence prevention programs in the fiscal year that began July 1, including $68 million in new spending on anti-violence measures.

“Any gun that we get off the streets or out of someone’s home is one gun that can never be used to harm another child or any other person,” said Councilmember Mark Squilla, whose First Council District will host one of the Gun Buyback events this Saturday.

“Every step we take – whether it’s a gun buyback event, negotiating more funding in the budget for anti-violence measures, even taking the Commonwealth to court to demand the right to pass stronger gun laws for Philadelphia – are all steps with one goal in mind: a safer Philadelphia for every citizen in every neighborhood,” said Council Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker, whose 9th District is hosting the second church Buyback location this weekend.

The fourth Councilmember who attended today’s press conference was Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez, whose 7th District includes St. Christopher’s Hospital and who hosted a Gun Buyback event in Kensington earlier this year. The district has been plagued by significant gun violence in 2021.

The Councilmembers were joined at today’s news conference by Donald Mueller, CEO of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children; Dr. Grier Arthur, pediatric surgeon at St. Chris; Mr. Qayyum of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, creator of the Gun Buyback initiative; Congressman Brendan Boyle, whose district includes the hospital; and Mr. Miles, whose daughter died in the gun incident at home.

The Gun Buyback initiative is being sponsored by the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro; Mothers in Charge, an anti-violence group; a foundation contributing anonymously; and Brown’s ShopRite, which has contributed resources towards the gift cards, which can be used in ShopRite stores.

“We began this effort with voluntary gun turn-in events in 2019 and earlier last year,” Qayyum said. “We started small and we’ve steadily built this initiative. We’ve collected guns in North and West Philly, South Philly and Kensington and other neighborhoods. Our goal is making homes safer, making neighborhoods safer, and saving lives. We’re grateful to all our sponsors. We have much more work to do.”

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