While the country has been reeling from the horror that unfolded in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 — when 19 innocent, beautiful children and two teachers were mercilessly gunned down in their own classrooms; and on May 14, when a white supremacist hunted down and murdered 10 Black people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York — the carnage has not stopped. In less than four weeks, this country has experience 33 additional mass shootings, with one unfolding right across the river in Philadelphia over the weekend. On Saturday night, as crowds of visitors walked along South Street, enjoying the beautiful summer weather, gunshots rang out into the crowd, killing three and injuring 11 more. As we are with each and every one of these horrific incidents, my colleagues and I are beside ourselves.
Watching the tragic, heinous and ultimately preventable loss of life so close to home is incredibly frightening. That said, thoughts and prayers will not change the public health crisis that is endemic in our country and killing our friends and neighbors. It is now time to demand swift change to the way this nation deals with guns and gun violence.
Mass shootings — defined as four or more people shot in one incident — occurred at a rate 13.4% higher in 2021 than in 2020. Nationwide, these instances have killed more than 700 people and injured almost 3,000 in upward of 690 separate incidents in 2021. The violence in Philadelphia has been steadily worsening for the last two years, with the city ending 2021 with a record-high firearm related homicide rate of 562 and approximately 1,800 people having been shot and wounded, according to a report from WHYY. And this pace of violence has not slowed down in 2022, as more than 900 people have been shot and at least 188 of those people died.
Even worse, Saturday’s incident was the ninth mass shooting in the city of Philadelphia this year, and we’re only five months into 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It is absolutely heartbreaking to know that the residents of Philadelphia are being denied their right to live fulfilling, happy and safe lives in their communities because the grip of gun violence is so tight. Things must change and they must change now.
The firearms being used in these crimes are impacting the places we frequent the most — our schools, our places of worship, our grocery stores, our doctors’ offices, our workplaces and our streets. These repeated acts of mass violence have given our society the haunting feeling that nowhere is immune to these disgusting acts.
When you analyze the trends of mass shootings in the U.S., it is astounding to us regarding what we have seen become normalized. According to the Trace, this rampant disease continues to grow at a rapid pace. To make matters even worse, six Republican governors signed into law permitless concealed carry laws for firearms in 2021, further hindering the safety of law enforcement officers and reducing public safety in our communities. In fact, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, in 2020 alone, 68,000 guns were recovered from crime scenes showing a clear correlation with gun crime and the nationwide rise in homicides. Recently, the FBI released a report stating that active shooter events increased by 50% from 2020 to 2021.
Something has got to give.
The state of New Jersey has been a prime example of good and thoughtful gun policies that protect residents and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but we are just one state surrounded by others with extremely lax policies. A majority of American citizens are demanding change to real firearm reforms. It’s not a farfetched request for residents of this country to want to send their children out of the house to learn, to go to pray, to public spaces and to go grocery shopping without having to worry about being killed by a military-grade assault rifle. We demand that these tragedies stop, we demand common-sense federal gun regulations that will eliminate this horrific loss of life and we demand Republicans stop being obstacles to this change.
Action is about 20 years overdue, but, at the very least, the U.S. Senate can start by voting for H.R. 8 that creates universal background checks. This bill, which has sat in the U.S. House of Representatives since last year, is a good start down the road to more common-sense gun control that is desperately needed to make our communities safer.
Camden County Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. spearheaded the creation of the Camden County Police Department and oversees the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force.