A group of students who held an anti-violence protest outside Philadelphia’s City Hall last week got to take their concerns directly to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Monday, urging Congress to take action to reduce gun violence.
The meeting was scheduled before this weekend’s mass shooting on South St. that left three people dead and a dozen injured, but the deadly incident helped drive the conversation.
Casey met with members of the group “Enough is Enough” at Temple University’s campus and told them the Senate was in part to blame for the violence because they are not moving forward on gun regulation. He said the Senate isn’t even ready at this point to discuss change.
“We’ve got to begin to solve the problem, even with one simple step we could even take this week in Washington by voting just to debate a bill,” Casey said.
Casey told the students that even debate on a bill is tough in a Senate where 10 Republican votes are needed to move legislation regulating guns forward.
Tenth grader Kayla Waddington said a survey done by Enough is Enough showed students don’t have enough creative outlets among other things.
“What our students think would help the problem is better gun laws and a focus on mental health in our community,” Waddington said.
George Lane, who will be a sophomore at Freedom Academy Charter School next year, told Casey their survey of 1,300 students shows that young people need creative outlets to channel their energy and asked for federal help with funding.
Casey responded the city would have to do that type of work, but if he were asked to help with federal funding he would try to assist.
He pointed to a bill he’s advocated for in the Senate with support from fellow Pennsylvania Dwight Evans who has a companion measure in the House.
“Our bill would set up a federal council with an advisory council at the federal level where you would go if you’re a victim of gun violence, but where a member of the community you’d go to have access to anti-violence programs,” Casey said.
Other members of the community were also on hand at the meeting, including Reverend Adan Mairena of the West Kensington Ministry. He said shootings are commonplace in his neighborhood, sometimes as many as 2 or 3 a week.
Mairena is worried about violence being a major issue this summer, calling the violence “contagious.”
“If we don’t have the resources to keep them occupied and if we don’t, you know, drastically start making some major decisions, I’m afraid that our younger folks are going to get caught up in the crossfire,” Mairena said.
He referred to the area around Kensington and Allegheny avenues as “a war zone.”
Councilmember Isaiah Thomas said as the City Council debates this year’s budget, he is seeking more money to keep recreation facilities open, especially during evenings and weekends when violence is prone to occur.
If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.