Philadelphia, PA – Amid rising gun violence in Philadelphia, City Councilmembers stood with anti-violence activists, city police officials and religious leaders today to continue a campaign to engage citizens to conduct gun checks in their homes. The purpose is to have individuals exercise personal responsibility in identifying guns in their residences — and turn them in at safe locations in Philadelphia, no questions asked.
The resumption of the “home gun check” campaign comes in response to a wave of recent incidents of gun violence in Philadelphia, particularly shootings involving children. Homicides citywide are at 260 – 30 percent higher than last year. Shootings are at 1,107 – up 33 percent. One hundred victims under age 18 have been shot this year – a 70 percent increase over last year. The city is on pace to surpass 400 homicides, a total last reached in 2007.
Last weekend, 25 people were shot across the city, including two 11-year-old boys in separate incidents in Grays Ferry and Olney. Earlier this month, a 6-year-old girl was shot in West Philadelphia. Just before that, a 7-year-old boy was shot fatally, caught in the crossfire.
Earlier this week, Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention held two days of virtual hearings to hear from city leaders, anti-violence experts and the public on what the city is doing to reduce and prevent this wave of gun violence. The escalating violence in Philadelphia comes amid rising gun violence in other American cities, including Chicago, Kansas City and New York. Experts differ on the cause, although some attribute it to rising feelings of despair amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Councilmembers and anti-violence activists say that home gun checks and safe disposal are just two strategies that residents can embrace in helping to fight an epidemic of gun violence in Philadelphia. Council has passed various gun violence prevention measures, including legislation prohibiting guns at city recreation centers, a lost or stolen handgun reporting law, a law making it easier for individuals seeking court orders removing guns from others’ possession, and legislation requiring gun owners in homes where children reside to keep their firearm safely secured in locked containers.
“We are on a pace today for nearly 400 homicides and 2,000 shootings this year in Philadelphia, and that is simply unacceptable,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke, a longtime advocate for stronger gun violence prevention laws. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in our city, and City Council will do its part. Working with Commissioner Outlaw, the Philadelphia Police Department, our faith community, and gun violence prevention advocates, we’ve created a Home Gun Check program that allows residents to turn in guns at local churches, no questions asked. Every gun turned in won’t be used in a shooting. We must and will do more, but this is a start and I’m glad we’re continuing this program that had success last winter.”
When Council worked in partnership with faith leaders, anti-violence advocates and Philadelphia Police in starting this program in December, dozens of firearms were anonymously turned in at area churches. Philadelphia police later took possession of all of the guns turned in.
“We are committed to utilizing every tool and strategy available to us in our ongoing effort to combat the pandemic of gun violence in our communities, especially when the victims are our precious children,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, adding, “We are privileged to partner with City Council, the faith-based community, and the Father’s Day Rally Committee in this life-saving endeavor.”
At today’s news conference outside Philadelphia police headquarters on Race Street, Councilmembers Cindy Bass, chair of Council’s Public Health Committee, Curtis Jones, Jr., co-chair of the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, and Derek Green, chair of the Finance Committee, were joined by Commissioner Outlaw, Bilal Qayyum, a longtime community anti-violence advocate, and local ministers of the participating churches.
“People in our neighborhoods know where the guns are,” Qayyum said. “We’re asking them to do the right thing, and bring guns they find in their homes and residences to one of these two locations this Saturday. They can turn the guns in safely and confidentially.”
“It is extremely important in the middle of a gun epidemic in the midst of a pandemic for all of us – clergy, police and community – to work together to use every means necessary to reduce the gun violence,” said Rev. Gregory Holston, pastor at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church in Germantown. “Janes Memorial is happy to be a site for the gun turn in.”
Here are the locations and times announced today for safe firearms disposal this weekend:
Saturday, August 15, 2020, 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.
|Janes Memorial United Methodist Church
47 E. Haines Street Philadelphia, PA 19144
|Tasker Street Missionary Baptist Church
2010 Tasker Street Philadelphia, PA 19145
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