Philadelphia is on track to end a fourth consecutive year without a decline in the murder rate.
Projections indicate that if the current pattern holds, it’s likely there will be more than 280 homicides in 2016. That’s an improvement from 2012, when there were more than 330 murders. It’s also down from a decade ago, when homicides claimed the lives of 400 people.
Still, the steady rate over four years has anti-gun violence activist Shira Goodman of CeaseFire PA concerned. Tackling the problem, she said, will require public-safety collaboration among local and federal authorities, a kind of partnership that may not be guaranteed under the incoming presidential administration.
“There needs to be economic opportunities. There needs to be educational opportunities. People need a reason not to pick up the gun. Not to feel that that’s the better opportunity,” Goodman said. “That takes all of the city working together. We need help from the state. We need help from the feds, and there’s people worried that that’s not going to be coming.”
On the local level, Goodman called for more investment in programs such as focused deterrence, where police identify likely shooters and victims and present them with incentives to avoid gun violence. The city has experimented with the program in South Philadelphia, where it is credited with cutting the homicide rate and the number of other incidences of gun violence. City officials have pledged to expand the program, but details are still being worked out.
“Those are really smart investments, and we need to see more of it,” Goodman said.
Goodman said her group expects to be fighting against many pieces of gun-related legislation next session in Harrisburg, including bills to allow carrying concealed weapons without a license; legislation creating a protected class for gun owners; and perhaps a renewed effort to re-enact something similar to Act 192, that made it easier for groups including the NRA to sue municipalities over gun-control measures. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the controversial measure in June.
Instead, Goodman would like to see a law to make sure people in imminent crisis are temporarily barred form purchasing a gun. “Those are the people who may be at risk of harming themselves and others, and family members know about it,” she said. “We have no way to catch those people who fall in the gap.”
The Republican super-majority in Harrisburg might not be too keen about some of the gun-control proposals on Goodman’s wish list. But she said support for some of them do not fall along traditional party lines.
“There has not been much appetite in Harrisburg, but the good news is we have more Republicans joining us every year,” Goodman said. “This shouldn’t be a geographical or partisan issue.”