Editorial: Ball is in Mayor Kenney's court on gun violence

Jul 23, 2021

The Philadelphia Tribune

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, at podium, on Thursday called on Mayor Jim Kenney to do more with anti-violence funds immediately. She was joined by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, right, District Attorney Larry Krasner, far right, and Councilmember Helen Gym, left background.


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City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier are demanding that Mayor Jim Kenney take further action on Philadelphia’s surging gun violence.

Thursday morning they along with other elected officials, city leaders and community activists told the Kenney administration to target its time and anti-violence resources to the 14 ZIP codes that have the most gun violence.

“Addressing our city’s gun violence is an issue of racial justice,” Rhynhart said.

She said that those ZIP codes with the highest amount of violence were: 19144, 19141, 19120, 19124, 19140, 19134, 19133, 19132, 19121, 19131, 19104, 19138, 19139 and 19143.

“This disproportionately impacts our Black and brown residents,” Rhynhart continued.

Their demands come as Philadelphia has had 321 homicides this year as of Wednesday night according to Philadelphia Police Department data.

“We cannot accept a reality in which Black and brown people are getting traumatized and terrorized on a daily basis, even if they aren’t directly victimized,” said Gauthier, who had been calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to declare a gun violence emergency. She has since backed off of that request from a 2020 City Council resolution that she sponsored and was adopted in September.

When pushed earlier this week to declare a state of emergency on gun violence, the mayor double-downed against it.

Kenney warned Wednesday that an emergency order could have an “unintended consequence and cause more fear in our communities, especially communities of color, already dealing with decades of systemic racism and poverty, which we are committed to getting rid of.”

However, Kenney said he has had discussions with Gov. Tom Wolf about a possible statewide gun violence emergency declaration, similar to what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put in place this month.

Gauthier called the mayor’s refusal to declare a state of emergency an “insult” and “tone-deaf” on Tuesday.

No matter what, Gauthier, Rhynhart and other community leaders have been clear that more needs to be done and now the ball is in Kenney’s court.

Here are their demands that target the most-affected ZIP codes:

  • Increase Philadelphia Parks and Recreation programming.

  • The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) and Department of Public Health coordinate efforts to increase access to health care and mental health services.

  • The Commerce Department to coordinate with DBHIDS and city partners under the Roadmap to Safer Communities to invest $5.6 million in additional workforce development funding.

  • The Managing Director’s Office of Community Services to lead public engagement efforts and mobilize a comprehensive community response, including engaging non-profit and for-profit partners.

  • The Managing Director’s Office should set up a Gun Violence Emergency Response Team to meet daily and implement strategies to respond to gun violence in hot spots. All city departments shall cooperate with this team.

  • The Managing Director’s Office should work with City Council on a plan to allocate $20 million in additional anti-violence funding from the fiscal year 2022 budget to specific programs, especially those that use trusted community sources and help those most at risk of being involved in a shooting.

  • The Managing Director’s Office of Violence Prevention should push to give the Community Crisis Intervention Program more heft with a timeline adding staff and outreach workers on the ground.

“We cannot accept a reality in which making this madness stop is not the absolute No. 1 top priority for each and every leader in our city government,” Gauthier said.

We agree that this is unacceptable and call on the mayor to respond positively to the current demands.

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