Congressman Dwight Evans announced an ambitious, $51 billion plan to tackle the nation’s gun violence epidemic at its roots. The plan would support local law enforcement to improve clearance rates for fatal and non fatal shootings, fund neighborhood violence intervention strategies and workforce development programs, and pay for city blight reduction, among other efforts.
Funding for the plan is wrapped into two stalled spending packages in Congress: the Build Back Better Act and the VICTIM Act, which Evans is co-leading with Florida Congresswoman Val Demmings.
In announcing the plan, Evans was joined by Mayor Jim Kenney, who was most focused on making firearms less accessible. He relayed a story about recently walking around Madrid at 1 in the morning and feeling safe because he was confident no one had a gun but the police.
“As long as I can go with you this weekend to buy a bag of guns without any background checks, without any questions at all, we’re going to have this problem,” he said.
Federal law does require licensed gun dealers to perform background checks on buyers, but not private sellers. Kenney said he’d also like to see legislation passed in Harrisburg to prevent straw purchasing.
Evans laid out the framework for his plan at Temple University Hospital, which treats many of the city’s gunshot victims.
Trauma surgeon and interim dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine Dr. Amy Goldberg said with funding previously secured by the congressman, her department was able to hire a social worker, a psychologist and a caseworker to help gunshot victims’ with mental health issues while in the hospital.
“I realized a long time ago that treating trauma patients must go beyond medications, surgery, and bandages,” she said. She has since built out a victim advocate program that provides counseling and facilitates reintegration to the community.
Goldberg said over the last five years, Temple’s emergency department has seen a 90% increase in gunshot wounds entering the emergency department. Philadelphia saw 562 homicides in 2021 – a historic high. The city recorded 2,326 shootings that year.