Philadelphia teens want a seat at the violence solutions table

The City of Philadelphia has made efforts to listen to teens on the issue of gun violence, through the creation of a Next Gen Task Force, which involves young people who are addressing violence in their neighborhoods. They also hosted a youth-focused event in late April as part of the “Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities” listening tour.

According to the survey, one of the biggest issues for teens is gun policy. When asked to identify solutions, 71% of respondents said “better gun laws.”

In April, a statewide gun violence prevention organization called CeasefirePA brought a group of young people, including Waddington, to Harrisburg to advocate for legislation that would require the reporting of lost firearms. or stolen and create extreme risk protection orders to temporarily remove firearms from people in crisis. .

Philadelphia teens met with Rep. Jordan Harris in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to advocate for tougher gun policies on April 26, 2022. (Courtesy Sherief Ibrahim)

“But I’ve only spoken to people who are representatives from Philadelphia … who all know about gun violence already,” she said. “And they kept telling me, ‘yeah, we know, we’re sorry. We’re trying’. But that was the main thing.”

Philadelphia has had little success in moving the bar on gun restrictions. The city has been at an impasse with Harrisburg over gun laws for several years and is currently suing the state for the right to enact tougher measures locally.

The city’s “roadmap to safer communities” includes a pledge “to work with local, state and federal partners to reduce gun availability and close the gaps that allow guns to fall into the hands of those who are likely to engage in violence”.

When asked for solutions, only 48% of students surveyed called for increased funding for youth programs.

The city has placed a particular emphasis on grant funding for nonprofits over the past two years, many of which support youth programs. The Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grant program sets aside grants of up to $1 million to groups that provide healing and mentorship. The mayor has already proposed an additional $12 million in the upcoming 2023 budget for the fund.

Several non-profit organizations are trying to gather feedback from young people on solutions to gun violence. The Beloved Care Project conducts listening sessions for teens, and Frontline Dads, YEAH Philly, and other nonprofits conduct their own surveys of young people about the crisis.

The results of the youth-led Enough is Enough poll will be the subject of a May 31 rally at City Hall, and the committee will present its case at a June City Council meeting.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find bereavement support and resources here.

About Florence L. Silvia

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