The issue of guns has been front and center since the mass shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, but gun violence continues to be a daily problem in Philadelphia. Early numbers from the Department of Health show a slight uptick in gun homicides last year after they’d been steadily declining since 2006.
According to Raynard Washington, Chief Epidemiologist at the Philadelphia Department of Health, there were 335 gun deaths last year, bringing the total number of Philadelphians killed by a firearm since 2003 to nearly 5,000 — most of them African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34, many stemming from arguments between people who know each other. A quarter involve drugs.
Washington presented the numbers at a discussion convened by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia on the issue of gun violence in the city. Speaking before a packed crowd, he said to reduce the number of gun deaths, we need more research into what instigates those shootings.
“If we can better understand … what are the underlying factors, particularly with the arguments, which are the largest driver of the homicides, we might be able to understand more how we might be able to prevent them,” he said.
Shira Goodman, who is on a leave of absence as the executive director of Ceasefire PA as she runs for Congress, also spoke at the event. She called on physicians to speak up and take a more active role in preventing firearm deaths, using their credibility and knowledge to keep the focus on the issue, even once the media attention has died down.
“Mass shootings may galvanize people,” she said, “but in Philadelphia we have a daily problem.”
Washington says for the last year they have full data on homicide rates, Philadelphia’s was higher than all other major U.S. cities and 3.5 times higher than the national average.