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Davis pushes proposed $100 million in funding to combat an ‘epidemic of gun violence’ in Pa.

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis joined gun safety advocates and family members of gun violence victims at a Capitol news conference to call for an investment in the state Office of Gun Violence Prevention. (Credit: Commonwealth News Service)

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 27, 2024

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis joined gun safety advocates and those affected by gun violence to highlight the investments in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget focused on dealing with the problem. 

“Some people in this building, all they want to do is offer thoughts and prayers anytime there’s a mass shooting or a major incident of gun violence,” Davis said Tuesday from the Capitol in Harrisburg. “Let’s be clear. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need real action in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Shapiro’s budget proposal unveiled earlier this month includes $100 million for gun violence prevention programs, including $1 million to create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention. That office would be under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which Davis chairs. 

“$100 million, that’s not just thoughts and prayers,” state Rep. Anthony Bellmon (D-Philadelphia), co-chair of the PA SAFE Caucus, said Tuesday. “That’s action.”

Davis said the office would focus on key areas like community outreach and technical assistance, coordination with our federal and local partners, and would address the intersections of gun violence with domestic violence and data, research, and evaluation.

In 2023, President Joe Biden created the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris, by executive order. 

Davis said that the Biden administration called on other states to create offices like the one proposed in the Shapiro budget. This is a part of the Biden administration’s “Safer America Plan,” which intends to make communities safer by investing in community policing and crime prevention. Davis said that he’s proud that Pennsylvania is one of the first states to take action on the call from the White House. 

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), co-chair of the PA SAFE Caucus, said that the “gun violence crisis” is nationwide, statewide, and local. 

“When politicians try to divide us on this issue, they will argue that gun violence is a city problem. And it is,” Frankel said. “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia absolutely have a gun violence problem. But so do communities in between those two great cities.”

Frankel cited a Columbia University study released last year that found firearm deaths are statistically more common in small towns than big cities. He called it “shameful” that gun violence is a leading cause of death for children and noted that 62% of gun fatalities in Pennsylvania are suicides.

“I’m tired of living in a city of Philadelphia, where people are afraid to go out of their homes, where young people are afraid to go to schools, and where our elderly don’t feel safe in their community,” Bellmon said. “And I know this is not just a Philadelphia problem, it’s something that people experience all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Davis noted that among U.S. states, Pennsylvania had the second highest decline in gun homicides in 2023, but added that gun violence rates are still “unacceptably high, especially among our younger Pennsylvanians.” 

“And while our investments in safer communities are making a difference, now is not the time to stop those investments,” Davis said. “Now is the time to double down on our efforts and make sure that even more is being done and that we’re even more effective.”

Adam Garber, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun violence prevention organization, pointed out that gun homicides were down 21% in Philadelphia and 27% in Pittsburgh in 2023 compared to the previous year. Despite the recent declines, however, the rate is still higher than pre-pandemic levels

Garber expressed optimism that the Shapiro budget proposal could make a meaningful difference in gun violence, and offered a warning about what he thinks would happen if the funding isn’t approved. 

“If we don’t pass the Shapiro-Davis budget, if we scale back the funding that’s happened for years, the progress we made will not only collapse, but it will actually accelerate the violence,” Garber said. “Because the reality is this is a disease and like any disease when you let it burn through a community unchecked, and you step back from cures that are working, it only gets worse.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.