PLBC calls Pa. gun violence a public health crisis like opioids, demands action

HARRISBURG, Nov. 28 – Several members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus today spoke out against the gun violence epidemic impacting communities of color across Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said, “Gun violence in Pennsylvania is a public health crisis and an epidemic, particularly for communities of color. It’s past time we start raising the level of attention on this tragic issue and demand more action. When children are being impacted, it’s time to call a state of emergency.

“At this time, I’m not calling for new gun laws, but for a coordinated effort and stronger enforcements of the laws we already have in place. By providing the resources necessary, we can finally address the issue of gun violence that has traumatized our communities for far too long.”

In 2016 alone, there were more than 10,000 incidents involving firearms across Pennsylvania, with nearly 5,000 of them taking place in Philadelphia.

While one Pennsylvanian is murdered with a gun every 17 hours, communities of color are disproportionately impacted. African Americans and Hispanics represent nearly 79 percent of all gun homicides in Pennsylvania. From 2005 to 2014, Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for the rate of gun homicides of African Americans. Although African Americans make up about 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, they account for more than 69 percent of gun homicides in the commonwealth. Moreover, Hispanics in Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation for the highest gun homicide rate of Hispanics, second only to Arizona.

Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said, “Just as we came together to address the opioid crisis, we must address the epidemic of gun violence with real resources and tangible solutions to keep our communities safe. While tragedies such as the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs shootings garner national attention, the world is often silent when these incidents take place in poor, urban communities. I’m tired of sending thoughts and prayers -- we need action now.”

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said, “Senseless shootings like the ones encountered in the Hill District have become the norm in far too many communities. It's not just about guns, but it's more about poverty and the unmet needs of traumatized people.”

Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., said, “As someone who buried a brother due to gun violence, I couldn’t agree more that this is a public health issue which plagues our communities. For me, this is more than a political issue -- it's personal.”

Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila/Delaware., said, “It breaks my heart to see the blood of our children, young and even older adults, spilled on the streets of our community by the hands of gun violence. Far too many innocent lives are cut short and families are devastated. This crisis must become important to all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle so we can better protect Pennsylvania's families in both rural and urban areas."

Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, said, “I want to pray for all the families affected by gun violence. We understand that it is a public health crisis. As a legislative body, we must take the necessary steps to create laws that curb gun violence and the devastation it brings to our communities. My hope is that in the upcoming legislative session, we put people before special interests so we can improve humanity and take the right steps to improve gun control.”