National Night Out highlights Philly gun violence

National Night Out highlights Philly gun violence

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It’s been another week of mass shootings in America. The killings in El Paso and Dayton have left 32 dead and 57 wounded, many still in the hospital, at least 10 critical. A week before, on July 29, there was a mass shooting in Gilroy, California and another at a graduation party in Southwest Philadelphia. There have been more mass shootings in the country this year than there have been days, with no end, apparently, in sight.

Gun-related deaths in Philadelphia are up 7 percent since this time in 2018. There have been 193 gun-related killings so far, and more than 600 non-fatal shootings. In 2018, there were well over 1,000 non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia. The city consistently ranks in the top 10 for most gun-related shootings and death. There are more killings in Philadelphia than in New York or Los Angeles. Activists blame lackadaisical gun laws in Pennsylvania; Philadelphia lawmakers blame Harrisburg’s refusal to act.

On August 6, there was a twilight vigil at Love Park to protest gun violence and speak to the urgent need for change. Dubbed “Love Over Hate,” the rally was convened by anti-violence advocacy groups and attended by myriad survivors of gun violence, their families and others concerned about the wave of gun violence. Sen. Bob Casey spoke to the crowd, saying that they had all come to express their “frustration and anger,” but also, “We come in solidarity” on the issue of stopping the carnage.

Pennsylvania’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey, has teamed with Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons to unveil three bipartisan bills that will curtail gun purchases via background checks. Toomey made his announcement before a massive rally in South Philly for the Aug. 6 National Night Out. Toomey said in his press conference, “What I want to do is focus on what we can accomplish now and that is to make it harder for people who shouldn’t have firearms to get firearms.”

Two people who clearly should not have had weapons were Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, and Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter. The latter with white supremacy ideology, as detailed in a manifesto he published on 8chan just before the shooting.

The majority of mass shooters are young white men with histories of violence against women and domestic violence. The links between such violence and mass shootings has been reported extensively but has yet to be addressed. Betts made a list of potential sexual assault victims at his high school. He’d been suspended for that but had been allowed to return, and no criminal action was taken. In the years since, Betts had been in a band, “Menstrual Munchies,” that glorified violence against women.

The band’s song titles are explicitly sexually violent. The album art is equally explicit.

Omar Mateen had a history of violence against women, also. Mateen was the shooter at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The June 2016 incident was the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, leaving 50 dead and 53 wounded. The youngest victim, Akyra Murray, 18, had just graduated from high school two weeks earlier and was scheduled to go to college on a basketball scholarship in August.

Just days later there was a sit-in in the House led by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis to address gun violence, but Republicans wouldn’t even let a bill be brought to the floor.

On Aug. 5, Candice Keller, a Republican Ohio state representative, posted a rant on Facebook about mass shootings being caused by “transgender, homosexual marriage and drag queen advocates.” No mention of guns.

In reality, LGBTQ people are increasingly the victims of violence: hate crimes against LGBTQ are up 17 percent. Nearly every trans woman murdered this year died after being shot. Suicide rates are also up among LGBTQ people and guns are the top choice of all suicide victims, male and female, at 51 percent.

In a country with 500 million unregulated guns, the risks for all of us are high. Betts killed 9 and wounded 27 in less than a minute before police shot and killed him.

Domestic terrorism is on the rise in the U.S., as is violence against women and LGBTQ people. Gun deaths are up exponentially across the country. Over 100 people are shot every day in America and each year 33,000 are killed by guns. Philadelphia has not had a single day without a shooting.

The bills from Toomey and Coons are a start. But so much more needs to be done. How many more will die before there is real action? 

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