BY The Tribune Editorial Board
January 18, 2022
On Sunday, we published an Op-Ed submitted by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart on the gun violence epidemic in Philadelphia.
We usually don’t comment on column submissions, especially ones submitted by elected officials.
But the issue of gun violence in our city is too urgent and the views expressed were too important not to comment.
So we will make an exception here because while some may see the views expressed as controversial, they were tough, urgent and absolutely necessary.
Rhynhart is correct when she says: “Philadelphia families should feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. But right now, city government is failing its people.”
It is not in our view that Mayor Jim Kenney, District Attorney Larry Krasner and those in law enforcement are not trying to reduce gun violence. And they can correctly point out that Philadelphia is not alone among U.S. cities with rising gun violence and that the pandemic and the flood of illegal guns in the city are contributing factors to gun violence. The mayor and the DA can also point to their new programs and additional funds aimed at reducing gun violence.
The question is not of commitment and concern, but of effectiveness.
The current approach is not working. That statement should not be seen as controversial or a personal attack on the character of the mayor, DA, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw or any other officials. It’s just a fact.
There were 562 homicides in 2021, the deadliest year in Philadelphia’s recorded history. “Most of the victims were young Black men. Most of the murders committed with a gun. In total, almost 2,300 people were shot in the city last year,” said Rhynhart.
This year is not getting off to a good start and without a change in strategy we are destined to repeat another year of record gun violence.
The best part of Rhynhart’s column is that she doesn’t just criticize but offers sensible solutions.
“The police must improve its clearance rates for shootings and murders and continue to make arrests for illegal gun possession, and the DA needs to enforce the gun laws already on the books and prosecute those arrested for gun charges appropriately, garnering convictions and making our city safer. It will take targeted and aggressive efforts to stem the flow of illegal guns into Philadelphia and to hold those engaging in illegal gun activities accountable to the highest degree. The DA must prioritize illegal gun possession cases, in addition to the areas of reform he is focused on. There must be real consequences.
“At the same time, we need a course correction on Mayor Kenney’s inadequate response to gun violence. To stop the bloodshed, the mayor must make specific, targeted investments in the intervention programs that work and into the communities most afflicted by gun violence.”
The mayor and the DA could respond that they are already doing what has been suggested. It is obviously not enough. They need to do better.