Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In last week's Washington Post: Guns are killing as many Americans as cars

By Christopher Ingraham
For the first time in more than  60 years, firearms and automobiles are killing Americans at an identical rate, according to new mortality data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2014, the age-adjusted death rate for both firearms (including homicides, suicides and accidental deaths) and motor vehicle events (car crashes, collisions between cars and pedestrians, etc) stood at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
The convergence of the trend lines above is driven primarily by a sharp drop in the rate of motor vehicle fatalities since 1950. In the late 1960s, for instance, there were well over 25 motor vehicle deaths for every 100,000 people in the United States. Since then, that rate has fallen by more than half.
Over the same period, gun deaths rose, but by a considerably smaller amount. Gun homicide rates have actually fallen in recent years, but those gains have been offset by rising gun suicide rates. Today, suicides account for roughly two out of every three gun deaths.
One way of illustrating the shift in gun and auto deaths is to look at state-level data. In 2005, gun deaths outnumbered vehicle deaths in just two states, Alaska and Maryland, plus the District of Columbia. By 2014, gun deaths were greater in 21 states plus D.C.
to read more, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pictures from today's vigil in memory of those slain by guns

The convent of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia is a beautiful stone building on a quiet road in Aston.  This afternoon, the whole community -- joined by many from the surrounding towns -- lined Convent Road holding candles and signs in memory of the children and teachers killed in Newtown, and the young people killed in Paris, and the dead from San Bernadino and the more-than-400,000 killed in the US by gun violence since 9/11/2001.

They stood, silent, in the gathering twilight, holding candles and signs.  I thought about those children, who'd be in 4th grade now if they were alive, and their grieving families, and the young men dead in Chester, and their grieving families.

Many of the Sisters are older; several walked with canes, but they stood there 45 minutes, holding candles and signs, and I thought about Zechariah 4:6, which we Jews read in the week of Hanukkah:  Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

From The Trace: How many shootings over the last year near you? How many deaths?

In relentless succession, a parade of towns and cities have this year joined the bloodstained ranks of American mass shooting locations. The mere mention of the places — Charleston, Chattanooga, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino — evokes images made familiar at Columbine and Virginia Tech and Tucson and Newtown: the police battalions rushing to respond, the shocked survivors and bereft loved ones, the eerie portraits of newly infamous killers.
But the truth is that these cities and towns and the events that now define them, however lethal they were and however large they understandably loom, comprise just a small fraction of the gun violence recorded in America during this or any year. In 2013, the last year for which government statistics are available, less than 2 percent of more than 33,000 gun deaths in the country were due to mass shootings. Tallies of gun-related fatalities are in turn dwarfed by totals for gun injuries. Every 12 months, more than 130,000 people are shot; many are left with devastating physical impairments and crippling health care bills.
Thanks to a nonprofit, nonpartisan project known as the Gun Violence Archive, data on gun homicides and non-fatal shootings is now available well before the federal government releases its statistics. That data includes location information that makes it possible to plot those shootings on a map showing how many have taken place in your vicinity. Where someone was killed, the shooting is coded in red (this includes multiple victim incidents with a mix of fatalities and injuries). Shootings resulting in injuries but not deaths are coded in yellow.
To read more, click here

Friday, November 27, 2015

On the front page of today's Delco Times -- The Memorial to the Lost at Widener

By Rick Kauffman

CHESTER >> Six-year-old Dahmi George doesn’t understand that his father isn’t coming home.
It’s been just seven months since his dad, 22-year-old Dominic Shaheed George, was shot 18 times in the back. It was the ninth murder in Delaware County in 2015, and one of a string of shootings in Chester, where there have been more than 20 homicides this year.
Dominic’s mother, Kristina Wright, said she was angry after the loss of her son, incensed that his murderer — whose identity she is confident she knows — walks free. But, with nowhere to focus her grief, she began studying the history of violence in Chester.
“I started finding out that there were so many unsolved murders in Chester,” Wright said. “I figured something would happen fast (in solving his murder), but it didn’t.”
Wright made a list of every murder she could trace back to 1980, using newspaper clips, county records, police blotter and far too many murders in her own extended family to count.
“My son always had that fear,” Wright said. “He always said, ‘Mom, it’s one of those days,’ and I told him, ‘It doesn’t have to be.’”
Seven months later, she and husband James Wright, Dominic’s father, are the guardians for two of their deceased son’s children, Dahmi, and his 6-month-old brother, Jeliyr, whom they affectionately call “Dom” after his middle name.
“His little brother didn’t get to meet his dad, because (Dominic) passed away a month before he was born,” James Wright said.
to read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Memory of Dominic George -- the Memorial to the Lost at Widener

Many, many thanks to Danielle Martin and Courtney Bogan, nursing students at Widener, and to Dr. Brenda Kucirka, who displayed a memorial banner by Kristina George in memory of her son, Dominic, killed last April, with t-shirts from the Memorial to the Lost at Widener University Center.   

Tandra Banks, Kristina's daughter, whose partner, Daquann McIntyre was killed in 2014, with their daughter, Quanea.

Heeding God’s Call to end Gun Violence started a t-shirt memorial in 2014, commemorating deaths by gun violence in Delaware County over the last 5 years.  Every t-shirt tells a story.

On Thanksgiving Day of 2011, Breon Burton, aged 28, of Chester, was shot dead on his way to his grandmother’s house, by an 18 year old.  He was Marshelle Burton Johnson’s only child.  Every November, his Mom puts up a memorial at the place where he died.  She hasn’t been able to rejoin her family’s Thanksgiving meal – the hurt is still too raw.  She started volunteering with Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence a couple of years ago.  She reaches out to bereaved families – we gather with them for witnesses, we make donations toward funeral expenses.  She says it helps, a little.

This March, Cayman Naib, aged 13, of Newtown Square received an email from his school about his coursework.  He took a gun out of his father’s closet and shot himself dead.  His body wasn’t found for days.  His father had bought the gun years ago for protection – didn’t think Cayman knew the gun existed.  Since then, his father has made a video about the dangers of having a gun in the home, for National Suicide Prevention Week.  He said it helps, a little.

Last April, Dominic George, aged 23, was shot dead, trying to break up a domestic argument.   He left two children, six years old and six months old.  In the months since, his Mom made a banner, with the names of all of Chester’s homicide victims since the 1980’s.  She wanted to memorialize all Chester’s deaths in one place, and show the young children they need to live peacefully together.  She gave the banner to our Chapter of Heeding God’s Call, to display.  She hopes it will help a little.

The US has a gun violence problem.  No other developed country does such a bad job of keeping guns away from children, from people with criminal records, substance abuse problems (alcohol as well as illegal drugs), histories of domestic abuse, mental problems.  Guns kill 88 people – 8 of them children—every day of the year.  Nation-wide, gun violence is far and away the leading cause of death for young African-American men, and the second most common cause of death for all our youth (after auto accidents).

If  current homicide rates in Chester continue, one in 16 of today’s teenage boys in Chester will be shot dead before age 35.  There’s a whole generation of boys who don’t really expect to grow to manhood.  Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence is a band of faith communities working to stop the bloodshed.

By raising awareness of the human toll of gun trafficking  – our t-shirt memorials remind us all to stop, read, pray, and remember the victims of gun violence.

By joining with bereaved families to remember their loved ones, by making donations toward funeral expenses, and, we hope soon, helping them access grief counselling.

By learning about the legal issues and legislative developments that make it harder for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (the ATF) from enforcing laws against straw sales and gun trafficking and prevent the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting research on gun violence

By working together toward the day when everyone in Delaware County has safe streets, and quiet nights, and all the young people in their midst have a chance to grow up and pursue their dreams.

Friday, November 13, 2015

In today's NYT: How Gun Traffickers Evade State Laws

by Gregor Aish and Josh Keller

In California, some gun smugglers use FedEx. In Chicago, smugglers drive just across the state line into Indiana, buy a gun and drive back. In Orlando, Fla., smugglers have been known to fill a $500 car with guns and send it on a ship to crime rings in Puerto Rico.
In response to mass shootings in the last few years, more than 20 states, including some of the nation’s biggest, have passed new lawsrestricting how people can buy and carry guns. Yet the effect of those laws has been significantly diluted by a thriving underground market for firearms brought from states with few restrictions.
About 50,000 guns are found to be diverted to criminals across state lines every year, federal data shows, and many more are likely to cross state lines undetected.
In New York and New Jersey, which have some of the strictest laws in the country, more than two-thirds of guns tied to criminal activity were traced to out-of-state purchases in 2014. Many were brought in via the so-called Iron Pipeline, made up of Interstate 95 and its tributary highways, from Southern states with weaker gun laws, like Virginia, Georgia and Florida.
to read more, click here

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In today's NYT: Bager Guns found Liable for straw sale

A jury in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday held that a gun shop that sold a pistol to a straw purchaser was negligent and ordered it to pay $6 million to two police officers, The Associated Press reported.

The suit, brought against Badger Guns, a gun shop just outside Milwaukee, was closely watched by gun-control advocates, the firearms industry and legal scholars because it involved a rare test before a jury of the responsibility of gun sellers for the criminal use of their products.

Gun-control groups hoped that a victory would embolden more victims and lawyers to sue what they say is a small minority of gun stores that make questionable sales.

The case arose in May 2009 when a 21-year-old man bought a Taurus semiautomatic pistol at Badger Guns on behalf of an 18-year-old friend. The friend, Julius Burton, who was too young to legally purchase a gun, accompanied the buyer to the store and helped select the weapon.

Weeks later, Mr. Burton used the gun to shoot two Milwaukee police officers in the face, leaving one with brain damage and a blind eye. Mr. Burton is serving 80 years for attempted murder, and the buyer, Jacob Collins, served two years for the illegal purchase.

The two officers and the City of Milwaukee sued Badger Guns, arguing that its employees either knew the sale was illegal or were grossly negligent in allowing it to proceed.

It was only the second time in the last decade that a civil lawsuit alleging negligent sales by a gun shop reached a jury. Victims and city governments had tried to sue the gun industry dozens of times in the 1980s and after, but more than 30 states — and Congress, in 2005 — passed laws barring most lawsuits against gun makers and sellers for the way that buyers use their products.

The federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, provides for exceptions that were cited in the Milwaukee case: Victims wounded with a weapon can pursue civil damages if the seller of a firearm knew, or should have known, that the transaction was illegal, or that it would very likely pose a danger.

In instructions to jurors, Judge John J. DiMotto said they must decide whether a “preponderance of evidence” indicated that store employees “believed or had reasonable cause to believe” that Mr. Collins was not buying the weapon for his own use.

In a two-week trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that many red flags on the day of the purchase should have aroused suspicion and led the store clerk to question Mr. Collins and his hovering friend more aggressively and to refuse the sale.

Mr. Burton was seen in a security videotape helping Mr. Collins choose the Taurus handgun. The two walked outside together briefly when Mr. Collins did not have enough money in his pocket to cover the $414 transaction.

As Mr. Collins struggled with paperwork, he checked on a federal form that he was not buying the gun for himself, then altered the answer when the clerk noted that it was inconsistent with what he had said on the state form.

“Badger Guns was supposed to be the public’s gatekeeper,” Patrick O. Dunphy, the chief lawyer for the police officers and the city, told the jury in his closing argument Monday.

“This is your opportunity to send a message to other gun dealers,” Mr. Dunphy said as he asked for millions in personal and punitive damages.

But James Vogts, a lawyer for the defense, in recounting the sequence of events, said that it had been far from obvious that Mr. Collins was buying the gun for Mr. Burton, and that the clerk and the store would never have intentionally made a criminal sale.

According to the law, Mr. Vogts told the jury, it is not enough to show that the clerk “should have been more careful.” Rather, the plaintiffs had to show that he had “real reason to believe that a crime was being committed in his presence.”

Defendants in the suit included Adam J. Allan, who owned Badger Guns at the time of the sale; his father, Walter J. Allan; and Milton E. Beatovic, who had co-owned a previous gun store in the same location called Badger Outdoors.

The plaintiffs said Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic were part of a conspiracy because they sold the store to Adam Allan in 2007, after losing their federal firearms license, in what the plaintiffs said was a sham scheme. The plaintiffs said Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic continued to bear responsibility for the store’s lax sales oversight.

Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic denied that the sale of the store was anything but normal.
Badger Guns’ federal firearms license was revoked in 2011 because of repeated violations. But the 2009 sale to Mr. Collins was not one of those violations, and Judge DiMotto did not allow the jury to hear about the revocation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wounded Police Officers Sue Gun Store that Permitted Straw Sale

by Eric Eckholm
MILWAUKEE — At 18, Julius Burton could not legally buy a gun. So he paid a 21-year-old acquaintance $40 to accompany him to Badger Guns, just outside the city limits here, and be the official buyer of a weapon.
Mr. Burton pointed to a Taurus semiautomatic pistol and said, “That’s the one I want,” according to surveillance video from that day in 2009 and trial testimony. Then he helped his friend, who was struggling to fill out a two-page form. A hovering store clerk helped as well, showing the friend how to correct mistakes and ensure he was listed as the buyer.
A month later, on June 9, 2009, Mr. Burton shot two police officers with the Taurus. One lost an eye and was left with brain damage; the other was seriously wounded in the face.
It was a classic straw purchase, an important way guns enter the underground market, though an unusually well-documented one because of the video and the quick identification of the true buyer.
But the case is unusual in another way. The wounded officers and the city of Milwaukee brought a civil lawsuit in state court against the gun store, charging that the clerk knew or should have known that the transaction was illegal. Closing arguments were delivered on Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in what has been a rarity in the last decade — a jury trial on the obligations of gun dealers who make questionable sales.
A victory for the officers, legal experts say, could bring renewed energy to civil litigation aimed at making the gun industry safer.
The case is part of a new wave of lawsuits — at least 10 are percolating around the country — that focus on gun shops like Badger and accuse them of knowingly permitting illegal sales or of being grossly negligent.
Lawsuits against gun sellers and makers were sharply restricted 10 years ago, when Congress passed a law giving the industry wide immunity from blame for the misuse of its products.
“If the jury in Milwaukee rules for the victims, it would be a notable and unusual victory,” said Timothy D. Lytton, an expert in tort law and gun cases at the Georgia State University College of Law. “It may well embolden more plaintiffs to bring lawsuits,” he said, “and give new momentum to a litigation campaign that looked all but dead after 2005.”
The Badger Guns clerk, Donald R. Flora, and the store owner, Adam J. Allan, said they did not realize that Mr. Burton’s acquaintance, Jacob Collins, was a straw buyer, and their lawyers have cited the stringent limits on liability in the 2005 law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, in defense.
to read more, click here

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Life as a Gunshot Survivor: the hidden cost of gun violence (in The Trace, by Mike Spies)

An estimated 9,000 people have been killed by gun so far this year in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than twice as many have been wounded — and while few fatal shootings generate media attention, even less attention is paid to this second group. The survivors of shootings remain largely anonymous as they disappear into their communities. How does getting wounded by a bullet, or bullets, change a person’s life? The answer is we really don’t know.

Enter Jooyoung Lee, a 34-year-old sociologist who for several years has followed the lives of gunshot victims, documenting the myriad physical and mental traumas they must cope with. His subjects are young, working-class, African-American men — those most affected by gun violence in America — who generally lack resources and access to quality healthcare. Says Lee, “I wanted to know what happens to people who are left to fend for themselves.”
In a 2013 article titled, “The pill hustle: Risky pain management for a gunshot victim,” published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, Lee explores what happens to black men who can’t afford pain medication. One subject, a line cook at a sports bar, was shot repeatedly in the chest and shoulder by his landlord after failing to pay rent. Under the law, the man was entitled to emergency care and even follow-up visits. “But,” Lee writes, once victims like him “are deemed healed by providers and released from continued care, [they] continue to struggle with injuries, chronic pain, and health problems that diminish their quality of life.” This is especially true for the so-called working poor, who “depend on an able body for their livelihood.” Later on, this same man is denied Social Security Disability Insurance and, desperately searching for relief, throws himself against a moving car, in a successful bid to be taken to a clinic where he can receive Percocet.
To read more, click here

Sunday, October 4, 2015

In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristoff, on reducing gun violence. More preschoolers are shot dead each year than police officers in the line of duty

We’ve mourned too often, seen too many schools and colleges devastated by shootings, watched too many students get an education in grief. It’s time for a new approach to gun violence.
We’re angry, but we also need to be smart. And frankly, liberal efforts, such as the assault weapons ban, were poorly designed and saved few lives, while brazen talk about banning guns just sparked a backlash that empowered the National Rifle Association.
What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them.
First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.
When I reported a similar figure in the past, gun lobbyists insisted that it couldn’t possibly be true. But the numbers are unarguable: fewer than 1.4 million war deaths since 1775, more than half in the Civil War, versus about 1.45 million gun deathssince 1970 (including suicides, murders and accidents).
If that doesn’t make you flinch, consider this: In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.
More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.
In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.
The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer. We need to do the same with guns.
When I tweeted about the need to address gun violence after college shooting in the Roseburg, Ore., a man named Bob pushed back. “Check out car accident deaths,” he tweeted sarcastically. “Guess we should ban cars.”
Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.
to read more, click here

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men (by John A. Rich) (from NPR)

In the 1990s, Dr. John Rich worked at Boston City Hospital. It was a violent time in the city's history, and Rich started noticing a steady stream of young black men who turned up at the emergency room. He also started wondering why, exactly, all these young men were ending up in the hospital.
Most of them were believed to be thugs or drug dealers, Rich says. Even among doctors and nurses, the assumption was that these young black men weren't true victims; that they had done something to get themselves shot.
So Rich began taking the time to interview the knife and gunshot victims who came to the hospital. He learned that many of them weren't, in fact, responsible for their own injuries — some had been robbed, others had talked to the wrong girl at a party or been caught in the line of fire while walking home.
Rich eventually compiled the men's stories in his book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time. Among those he interviewed was Boston native Roy Martin. The two met through a mentoring program when Martin was in a prerelease program from prison.
Martin proved to be an invaluable resource for Rich, giving him insight into the lives of many of these young men.
"While I'm an African-American man, my life was different," Rich tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "My dad was a dentist, my mom was a teacher. My experience was just different from theirs. And that's why Roy was so important."
With Martin's help, Rich came to realize that many of the men who had been injured also suffered emotional wounds, similar to those of combat veterans. Symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks contributed to a feeling of jumpiness and unease — and often put these young men at risk for even more violence.
As Rich put it, "When you are hypervigilant or jumpy, or always on guard, you can go from 0 to 60 in a very short time. So a young person who is on the bus, somebody steps on his foot and suddenly somebody gets stabbed or shot."
Or as Martin put it, "Violence is evidence of a bigger problem."
That realization led Rich to try to treat the emotional wounds in addition to the physical ones. He and Martin are working with hospital programs that help young men who've been attacked understand the symptoms of trauma their experiences might bring. The program also connects the men to therapy, as well as employment and education opportunities.
"I think it's an opportunity for us to educate them about these wounds of trauma," Rich said. "And by addressing the wounds of trauma, we can make a difference."
to read more, click here

Why can't states keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers (Huffington Post, Melissa Jeltsen)

On the worst night of her life, Nicole Beverly was beaten almost unconscious by her husband and then forced to sit beside him as he loaded and unloaded his gun, threatening to kill her. “I was sure I was going to die,” she told The Huffington Post.

Paralyzed with fear, it took her five months to tell anyone about the abuse and seek help. One crisp Michigan morning she did, filing a restraining order and fleeing with her two children. But after Beverly was granted the order, she was horrified to find out that the gun her husband had used to terrorize her remained in his possession.

Under the 1996 Lautenberg amendment to the Federal Gun Control Act, people who are subject to permanent domestic violence restraining orders can’t own or buy guns. (The law generally doesn’t apply to dating partners or temporary restraining orders, although there are legislative efforts underway to change that.)

But Michigan -- like most states -- doesn’t have a law requiring people with domestic violence restraining orders to actually surrender their firearms to authorities. Without a mandatory state process in place to remove his guns, Beverly's husband was left armed and dangerous.

“I was told by the judge that it was the expectation that when someone is served a restraining order that they will turn in their weapons. Of course he didn't turn in his weapons because he wanted to harm me and he does not follow rules in general,” she wrote in an email to HuffPost. “I had to call the judge and probation officers repeatedly and send emails regarding my concerns before he ordered that my ex-husband finally turn his weapons over. It was absolutely ridiculous and terrifying that the court would leave something like that in the hands of the abusive individuals.”

Across the country, states are failing to keep guns out of the hands of abusers who are prohibited under federal law from having them. According to data collected by Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention group begun by Mike Bloomberg, the majority of states don't have legislation that's equivalent to federal restrictions. That's important: While an abuser may be barred federally from owning guns, without a state law on the books, local and state prosecutors can't bring charges against him.

to read more, click here

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Don't Shoot, by David M. Kennedy

A few weeks ago, a friend from Chester started talking about the level of gun violence in Chester.  These young men--who grew up together -- who went to school together-- are killing each other -- not one will be left alive, she said.  Guns are flooding the city.  The work HGC is doing to raise awareness of the costs of gun violence and reduce straw sales, nothing seems to be having much effect.

I didn't know what to reply.  Then (ever academic) I thought; at least I could get better acquainted with the literature.

David M. Kennedy, a self-taught criminologist, was a Swarthmore grad, received an honorary degree from Swarthmore, and has taught at the Lang center (at Swarthmore).  He directs the National Network for Safe Communities.

Below are excerpts from an interview on Fresh Air:

Those neighborhoods are also more likely to be deadly for African-American men — and they're getting worse, says Kennedy, citing grim statistics: Between 2000 and 2007, the gun homicide rate for black men between the ages of 14-17 increased by 40 percent. The rate for men over the age of 25 increased by 27 percent. In some neighborhoods, 1 in 200 black men are murdered every year.

"This is where the worst open-air drug markets are all concentrated," he says. "And quite naturally, law enforcement pays an awful lot of attention to those neighborhoods. ... And the shorthand that you get from cops when you look at these communities is that they look at you and say, 'There is no community left.' "

But there are plenty of law-abiding residents in these neighborhoods that have been overtaken by drugs, says Kennedy. They outnumber the gang members and drug dealers by significant percentages.

"What matters is that these offenders are in the communities in groups," he says. "They are in gangs, they are in drug crews, they are in chaotic groups. And those groups drive the action to a shocking degree."

In Cincinnati, for example, there are about 60 defined gang groups with about 1,500 members.

"[The people] representing less than half a percentage point of the city's population are associated with 75 percent of all of Cincinnati's killings," he says. "And no matter where you go, that's the fact."

The national homicide rate is now about 4 per 100,000, but the homicide rate for members of gangs and neighborhood turf groups is dramatically higher: as many as 3,000 per 100,000 a year.

"It is incredibly dangerous," says Kennedy. "If you talk to these guys, what they say is, 'I'm terrified ... I got shot ... My brother's dead ... I've been shot at ... And they are trying to shoot me ...' That [is] their everyday world."

Kennedy's homicide-reduction program, called Operation Ceasefire, brought gang members into meetings with community members they respected, social services representatives who could help them, and law enforcement officials who told them that they didn't want to make arrests — they wanted the gang members to stay alive, and that they planned to aggressively target people who retaliated. The interventions worked to reduce the homicide rates.

"In city after city, what we see is you may have to do it once or twice, but as soon as the streets believe that that's what's going to happen, they change," says Kennedy. "In the summer of 1996, just a few months after we implemented this, the streets had quieted down dramatically, and they kept getting better."

A variation of Operation Ceasefire was also implemented to shut down open-air drug markets. Instead of arresting drug dealers, the police officers and Kennedy set up meetings with drug dealers — and their mothers.

"We said, 'Your son is at a turning point. He could be arrested right this minute, but we don't want to do that. We understand how much that damages him and his community. There's going to be a meeting in a week. Please come with your son to the meeting,'" he says.

Nearly everybody came. In the meeting, the police reiterated what they had said in previous meetings with gang members: that they wanted the drug dealers to stay alive and out of jail. They also warned that the consequences of not shutting down the drug markets would be severe. In High Point, N.C., where the program was piloted, the open-air drug market disappeared.

"You do one of these meetings ... [and] you can break the cycle in these neighborhoods literally overnight," he says. "All that craziness is gone."

to read more, click here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pictures from Chester's Refuge in Christ Church Block Party

Yesterday was gorgeous -- bright sun and not too much humidity.  There was Christian Rap, and BBQ chicken, burgers and games and a moon bounce,  Sister Jean was there with flyers from Ana's Place, and Sheila Bell and I were there with HGC literature--it was a good chance to reach out to the wider community.  A great time was had by all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In today's Phila Inquirer - Editorial on the Gun Range

When the federal government shut down the notorious gun shop owned by James G. Colosimo in 2009, neighbors and anti-gun-violence advocates celebrated the closing of a public nuisance that for years was frequented by "straw buyers" who purchased weapons for felons who couldn't legally own a firearm.

However, a new version of the gun shop on Spring Garden Street may reopen unless residents in the West Poplar neighborhood can persuade the city Zoning Board of Adjustment to deny that use of the property. The target range behind Colosimo's was acquired by new owners who also want to sell weapons at their establishment, called the Gun Range.

The Gun Range's operators contend that there is little difference between a shooting range and a gun store. But Bryan Miller of the anti-gun-violence group Heeding God's Call sees it differently. Most important, the operators of a gun range can control how weapons are used there. That's not the case once a gun leaves the premises. Limiting where guns are legally sold could reduce the number that end up being used to commit crimes.

In fact, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence documented more than 400 crimes that it says were committed with guns purchased at Colosimo's over a seven-year period in the 2000s, including at least 10 homicides.

The federal firearms license of Colosimo's Inc. was revoked in 2009 for failing to maintain proper firearms records and making false statements. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the gun shop had sold 10 guns to three straw buyers. As part of a plea agreement, Colosimo agreed to cooperate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It would be a shame to see guns again being sold at a location with such a sordid past. The city zoning code does allow gun shops in industrial areas that are at least 500 feet from homes, religious institutions, and schools. But this increasingly residential community with a growing commercial strip is zoned commercial, and the Zoning Board should maintain that designation.

To read more, click here

Sunday, August 16, 2015

the Memorial to the Lost at Christ Church in Media

Saturday morning was sunny, breezy and not too hot.  Christ Church, Media had a great turnout to build the Memorial to the Lost.  It was such a lovely congregation -- the Memorial was up in a little over an hour, so I was in a good mood when I drove down to visit with a Chapter member in Chester.

She lives in a dangerous part of town. It used to be that people felt safe sitting outside their front doors during the daytime -- now, not so much.  She used to be able to walk confidently to the little corner store -- now she only goes at certain times of the morning.  She doesn't sit by her back window, for fear of being hurt by shots coming through.  People can't hold a picnic, for fear of shooting.

A 17 year old shot a 10 year old in the stomach with a Glock at Memorial Park near the swimming pool a couple of weeks ago.  What's a 17 year old doing carrying a Glock so near where children were playing on a hot summer day?  Another 17 year old was killed at the corner of 9th and Lincoln last week.  That was the 13th in Chester this year.  Shootings  are so common, most don't get reported in the paper.  

The police are slow to respond to calls for help, and are seldom able to solve cases.  (Note:  Chester had the highest homicide rate of any PA city last year -- 88 / 100,000).  The police are always looking for drugs, but don't seem to care much about keeping neighborhoods safe.

Chester's young men all went to school together; all of them know each others' parents.  It used to be that when two young men were fighting, the parents could visit each other and calm things down.  No longer.  Why are they killing each other?  The Klu Klux Klan doesn't need to do anything in Chester; the young men will all kill each other, there won't be a single one left.

A young, white man came by her door at dusk the other night, asking did she want to subscribe to cable.  She said the neighborhood was dangerous-- he was running a big risk, walking from door to door.  He said he had a quota to meet or he'd lose his job.  She asked, was his job worth risking his life?

I didn't know what to say.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Press Coverage of the Gun Range Demonstration and Zoning Board Hearing.


Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment didn’t make a decision today over whether a gun shop can open in a shooting range close to Spring Garden Street, but the debate previewed what sorts of legal posturing is to come.

A central question raised during the three-hour hearing was whether Yuri Zalzman, who has operated the Gun Range the past three years, must apply for a variance in order to sell firearms from his shooting range.

That’s what most thought the meeting was about – reasonably so, given that it was billed as a variance hearing. But shortly into deliberations, Zalzman’s attorney, Dawn Tancredi, waived her right to seek a variance.

Some in attendance looked noticeably befuddled by Tancredi’s statement. It prompted the Board members and attorneys from both sides to meet in a corner of the room for a quick huddle to hash out how the hearing was going to move forward.

Then lots of technical arguing ensued.

The gist of Tancredi’s argument: The shooting range already has the right to retail guns, and the rebuttal offered by city officials: That’s not true. Selling guns entails applying for and successfully winning a new variance.

After the hearing Bryan Miller with Heeding God’s Call To End Gun Violence said he’s now more hopeful than ever that the gun shop will never open.

To read more, click here

In today's Phila Inquirer

In the three years since Yuri Zalzman purchased an old shooting range in the reviving North Philadelphia neighborhood of West Poplar, he has hosted gun enthusiasts, sold ammunition to customers, and rented guns to practicing marksmen. Now, he thinks he should be allowed to sell firearms, too.

Philadelphia's Zoning Board is not so sure.

After nearly three hours of oral arguments Wednesday, the board asked attorneys to submit briefs outlining their positions.

That means that West Poplar residents and antiviolence groups - about 50 people attended Wednesday's hearing - will have to wait at least another month to learn whether Zalzman can open a gun shop in his North Percy Street building.

In Philadelphia, gun shops are normally allowed only in industrial zones, and only if situated more than 500 feet from a church, school, or residence.


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The owner of a gun range in the Spring Garden section of Philadelphia is seeking the city’s permission to be re-zoned so it can sell firearms, but residents and community groups want to stop him.

Located in the 500 Block of North Percy, the Gun Range is located across the street from a Buddhist Temple, a few hundred feet from St. Paul’s Baptist Church. And it’s near numerous residential properties. To top it off, it’s located just around the corner from Colosimo’s, a gun shop shuttered six years ago after feds linked it to illegal straw purchases.

“Just like the gun shop that was there before, it would devastate the community,” says Brian Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call.

He organized the dozens of residents and civic groups that attended a zoning board meeting on Wednesday. Their goal — block range owner Yuri Zalzman’s application to be zoned a “gun shop.

to read more, click here


In Metro US

Lawyers for the owner of a Philadelphia gun range said a quirk in the city's zoning code should allow them to sell guns — an argument that has drawn the ire of gun control groups that packed a zoning hearing Wednesday over the range's plans.

"There's a lot of emotion involved," said Christopher Garber, a firearms instructor who came out in support of the gun store. "You have people who have seen children killed. But guns don't kill people. Personal responsibility has to come into play."

The seemingly obscure debate comes at a time when gun rights groups and cities across the state are locked in a battle over the degree to which municipalities can regulate guns, and gun control groups see a potential impact across the state.

"This is an attempt to undo zoning laws," said Shira Goodman, of CeaseFire PA.

In July, a state court overturned a law that would have forced cities and towns to pay the legal fees of gun rights advocates who sued to overturn gun laws such as those that require firearms owners to report lost or stolen weapons. That decision is under appeal.

The Gun Range, a gun range near 11th and Spring Garden streets, applied through the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections to begin selling firearms. That application was denied, setting the stage for Wednesday's hearing.

Lawyers for the business argued that the city's zoning code doesn't actually contain a definition of a firing range. But the code defines a gun shop as any place that sells or lends firearms, or sells ammunition. 
to read more, click here

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In yesterday's Washington Post: Watch what happens when regular people try to use a gun in self defense

By Christopher Ingraham

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the National Rifle Association proposed putting more guns in schools. After a racist shot up a Charleston prayer group, an NRA board member argued for more guns in church. And now predictably, politicians and gun rights advocates are calling for guns in movie theaters after a loner killed two people at a theater in Louisiana.
The notion that more guns are always the solution to gun crime is taken seriously in this country. But the research shows that more guns lead to more gun homicides -- not less. And that guns are rarely used in self-defense.
Now a new study from researchers at Mount St. Mary's University sheds some light on why people don't use guns in self-defense very often. As it turns out, knowing when and how to apply lethal force in a potentially life-or-death situation is really difficult.
The study was commissioned by the National Gun Victims Action Council, an advocacy group devoted to enacting "sensible gun laws" that "find common ground between legal gun owners and non-gun owners that minimizes gun violence in our culture." The study found that proper training and education are key to successfully using a firearm in self-defense: "carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense unless the carrier is properly trained and maintains their skill level," the authors wrote in a statement.
To read more (and see videos) click here