Political leaders unite against gun violence
By T Martin
Family, friends and neighbors of Jose Negron, Jr. gathered at 6th and Lycoming Streets in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park area to celebrate his life and to offer prayers to end the violence that plagues our City streets.
Democratic State Representative candidate Rafael Collazo hosted the Monday, March 1st vigil, emceeing for the community, religious and political leaders that came forward with words of comfort, prayer and encouragement.
District Attorney Lynne Abraham attended, calling area residents a “caring community that loves peace.”
“We have to stand together and say ‘nada más’! No more violence. No more drug dealers. No more!”
One PTA parent talked about his former life, one of violence and fear, and about what sparked the change that turned his life around.
“Do we feel fear right now on this corner?” he asked rhetorically. “We don’t’ fear now because we stand together, united against violence, against drug dealers. And if there are any drug dealers out here tonight, go home! Go pollute your own homes and neighborhoods because we’re tired of you polluting ours!”
Religious leaders agreed, calling drugs the poison that attracts so many youths to “easy money.” They praised the City Police presence at the corner vigil in front of a local grocery store, giving them credit for standing with the community in its violent struggle.
Citing that the death, and others like it, that brought a community together at 6th and Lycoming Streets that night was the result of drugs and gun violence, some attention was brought to gun laws and their effect on a beaten community.
Gun safety talk surfaces
Just a few days earlier, on Wednesday, February 25th, State Representative Angel Cruz of the 180th District joined Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll, Sheriff John Green and the national executive director of Project ChildSafe to launch a gun safety initiative in Philadelphia. The ceremony took place in the Julia de Burgos Middle School located at 4th Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia.
The initiative followed the deaths of a Peirce Elementary School Student caught in crossfire on his way to school in February and a Simon Gratz High School student killed while trying to help his family.
However, the initiative focuses on the protection and safety of children in homes where guns are kept. Project ChildSafe is a nationwide program that promotes safe handling and storage of firearms through safety education programs. It partners with elected officials, community leaders and law enforcement to distribute free safety kits to gun owners throughout the nation.
Gun related injuries rank among the top causes of death for children, including deaths from accidental shootings, homicide and suicide. Project ChildSafe, sponsored by the National Sports Shooting Foundation, doesn’t necessarily look to stricter gun control laws as an answer, but rather advocates responsible ownership of firearms.
“We have all seen or read heart-breaking stories about children finding unlocked guns in their homes and using them as toys – with tragic consequences,” said Cruz.
“An unlocked gun is an invitation to tragedy, no doubt about it.”
Cruz expressed pleasure that Pennsylvania will see over 880,000 free locks distributed under the program this year and that his office will serve as the distribution center for Philadelphia.
“In 2002 the program distributed 2.4 million safety kits to 44 states, and has significantly raised awareness of gun safety and responsibility,” Cruz added.