This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta on Thursday called on Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Jim Kenney to declare a state of emergency in Philadelphia to stop the gun violence in the city, which has seen more than 500 murders, so far this year.
“We need to treat this like the crisis and emergency like it is,” Kenyatta, D-181st, said.
For example, Kenyatta said he and other legislators have repeatedly introduced legislation to increase penalties on people who fail to report lost or stolen guns to police. Another part is a long-term plan to improve education, job opportunities and safety, he said.
The state of emergencies are needed, Kenyatta said, to create a coordinated effort.
“At the state level we saw the governor do something similar as it related to the opioid epidemic,” Kenyatta said. “What that did was bring together FEMA, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health to make sure that folks are working together to stem the crisis. We need to do that right now.”
Both Wolf and Kenney issued statements saying they were opposed to the idea.
Kenyatta made his comments outside of the Leon Sullivan Trust Building on North Broad Street. He was flanked by several officials who are actively working on gun violence prevention. He also called on the state legislature to pass several stalled pieces of gun-safety bills.
But other stalled bills include requiring background checks on all gun sales, except family transfer, increasing penalties for straw purchases, and 72-hour waiting period before you can purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle.
In September 2020, City Council voted unanimously on a resolution to get Kenney to call for a state of emergency, but the mayor refused, and said it would result in fear and would be a distraction.
The resolution, introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, offered specific suggestions for the City’s response to this gun violence emergency, including more transparency on the implementation of gun violence prevention initiatives, more coordination and planning by city agencies; and eliciting help from the private sector, nonprofit groups, academic institutions, and health care companies.
Since then, the gun violence crisis has only increased considerably.
Standing with Kenyatta, was Felicia Pendleton, a director at New Options More Opportunities (NOMO). She lost her son Javon Mitchell Pendleton, a 20-year-old student at Cheyney University in March 2016.
NOMO offers young people counseling on job readiness, nutrition, financial literacy, bullying, substance abuse and other topics, she said. The nonprofit group also offers recreational activities such as sports and field trips.
Scott Charles, trauma outreach manager at Temple University Hospital who was at the news conference, said that for every person who is shot, there are another four people who are wounded.
“Eighty percent of shooting victims survive their injuries,” Charles said. “We are a city of walking wounded. We are in fact in a state of crisis.”
Kenyatta said the third part of the strategy has to be long-term prevention, in the form of good-paying jobs, better education and safer neighborhoods.
For example, the 181st District, which includes parts of North Philadelphia, is among the poorest in Pennsylvania.
“We must invest in our youth, talk to our youth and make sure that they have options and there are programs to place to provide safe havens for our young people.” Kenyatta said. “This issue of gun violence is not a North Philadelphia problem, it’s not a West Philadelphia problem, it’s not a Southwest Philadelphia problem. The gun violence that we have seen is a uniquely American problem.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.