The message rang clear Sunday inside the First Presbryterian Church in Germantown: It’s time to take real action against gun violence in Philadelphia.
At the close of a week dotted with deadly shootings, nearly 70 Northwest residents gathered to kick-off a series of protests aimed at an area gun shop thought to be contributing to the illegal gun market.
“In less than an hour in this city, a trafficker can acquire, through a stand-in, a straw-buyer, as many guns as he or she wants,” said Bryan Miller, director of public advocacy for Heeding God’s Call and director of Ceasefire NJ, two anti-gun violence organizations.
The event’s organizer, a new grassroots interfaith group called Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence (NPEG), will start holding protests outside of Delia’s Gun Shop in Northeast Philadelphia.
This after the owner refused to adopt and post a 10-point code of conduct created by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.
The non-binding code asks stores to videotape all transactions, run criminal background checks on all employees and keep better track of inventory, among other things.
The regularly scheduled demonstrations will begin Feb. 21 (Date change made by NPEG) Feb 22 between 4:30-5:30 p.m. They will continue at the same time each first and third Mondays (Date change made by NPEG) Tuesdays of the month until the owner changes his mind. The goal is not to shut down the shop, though this model, championed by Heeding God’s Call, did help bring about that action in 2009 at Colosimo’s Gun Shop.
During the two-hour event, representatives from NPEG and the area’s anti-gun violence movement worked to empower and energize the assembled through speeches, songs and poetry.
Rabbi Linda Holtzman, who heads the Mishkan Shalom synagogue in Roxborough, said it’s not enough to just say gun violence is a problem, you have do something about it.
“As long as we are not standing up and saying ‘no we won’t allow this to continue’, we are responsible. As long as we don’t claim our brotherhood and sisterhood with each other and everyone touched by gun violence, we are responsible,” said Holtzman.
Bishop Dwayne Royster of Living Water United Church of Christ in North Philadelphia said the group’s work is critical because it can save lives.
“So that the next doctor, lawyer, dentist, sanitation engineer that we need for our community will be able to, at the age of 40, get up, sit on the side of bed, feel the aches and pains of getting older and go do their job,” he said.
Whether the group will get Delia’s and other shops down the road, to help halt straw purchases is unclear. But it was clear Sunday that residents, young and old, were certainly willing to try.
Emir Greene, an eighth grader from Germantown, said he wants to put an end to the violence in his neighborhood.
“It’s everywhere. You’re scared to even go home at night,” said Greene, who lost his father and a friend to gun violence.
“The world is bad enough as it is,” he added. “Why do we need all of this violence?”
Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence currently has eight member institutions:
• Chestnut Hill United Church
• Germantown Mennonite Church
• Mishkan Shalom synagogue
• Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church
• First Presbyterian Church in Germantown
• Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill
• Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia
• Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration