Above photo: FRIENDS AND MEMBERS OF THE MOTHER BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH in Philadelphia take part on a walk Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, to honor those lost to gun-related homicides and to demand stronger and more effective gun laws and regulations. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
By State Rep. Darisha Parker
Here we are again. Today, yesterday, two weeks ago, last month, last year and how many years past?
Gun violence. Mental health issues. We keep talking about it. We keep talking around it. Yet nothing is done. Nothing.
Waiting for consensus. Waiting for compromise. Waiting.
At what point do we realize that every measure that addresses the list of guns available to the public, increasing mental health issues that are plaguing our citizens – with neither issue decreasing, slowing down or stopping – could potentially save lives?
My point is this: any measure addressing these issues could be a move in the right direction. Any measure will be more than what we have now which is nothing.
Yes, the conversation is larger than just a couple of bills. But gun violence and mental health have touched every corner of the commonwealth. So essentially, it touches every life in those corners as well.
Some things we can do:
Raise the age for access to guns.
Ban assault weapons.
Fund mental health positions in schools.
Increase funding for boots-on-the-ground organizations that deal with gun violence daily (money from the state budget last year awarded grants).
Properly invest in our neighborhood schools regardless of zip code.
Increase investments in our recreation centers, programs for after-school activities and stipends for men and women in zip codes plagued by poverty and violence.
Let’s face it — COVID changed everything. The normal activities we were used to and those that helped us stay integrated into our communities really went out the window with the pandemic.
We’re afraid to leave our homes for fear of illness. And it just keeps coming. Wave after wave of variants to this coronavirus keep popping up, leaving folks anxious, frazzled and depressed.
Then, when there seems to be a break and we can resume our lives, we have the constant barrage of gun violence that sets us back yet again and keeps us in our homes.
It’s bad for our mental health, it’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for our cities and it’s bad for our neighborhoods.
You fear sitting on your front porch having a morning cup of coffee because you don’t know if it will be the last time you do. The constant threat of gun violence is pressing, even suffocating. And that, coupled with the pandemic, has set us on a path that is unsustainable.
Even our worship time has suffered, where we would gather on a Sunday to sing praise and meet with neighbors and fellow worshipers. That has largely gone away.
There is no conflict resolution, no forgiveness, no grace and kindness — all things we learn in that religious space. We live in a world where high-end lifestyles are glorified and everyone believes they deserve everything – that they deserve all they can get, be, and do. Yet who is glorifying neighborly kindness, safe streets where our little children play, clean schools where our children learn? Why is it that we need weapons made for war to live on our streets?
Why do we need to provide access to that? I don’t believe anyone thinks we do, but this notion that it will chip away at law-abiding citizens’ rights to access other guns is ludicrous.
It is a rallying cry from the NRA and a false narrative that is killing this state and our country.
In Philadelphia, our mayor and district attorney have been on national television pointing fingers at each other. Why? It disgusts me to hear negative comments from elected leadership.
Many of us are working together to collaborate for solutions and to move past problems. Now isn’t the time to continue to disagree — today we’re demanding you get your acts together.
We need serious plans for serious solutions. Parents and guardians — if you have a repeat offender in your residence, please call local, state or national authorities anonymously. You can help curb the tide of repeated violence in our neighborhoods.
And just to reiterate, the problems that plague Philly are everywhere. Gun violence is on the rise in Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Erie, Scranton, York, Reading, and Allentown.
We can’t just lay down, waiting for this to end.
Darisha Parker is the PA state representative for the 198th Legislative District in Northwest Philadelphia.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.