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Meetings about gun violence isn't going to change that kids are dying in Philly streets

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This week, our editor says action, not words from Philly brass on gun violence is the only thing that’s going to curb an epidemic of savage shootings in the city. | Image: David von Diemar

It’s been an upsetting week for so many here in Philadelphia, myself included. 

I woke up Tuesday morning, turned on my phone and became treated to an alert that yet another child was senselessly shot in Philadelphia. 

The very next day, I listened to city councilmembers, district attorneys and the Police Commissioner essentially deliver lip service on what can be done to curb the rising gun violence in Philadelphia, an epidemic that’s battling COVID-19 for the top bill on what’s fucking up more people’s lives here in the city. 

In the past, I’ve written columns on how the tide of violence mirrors the systemic poverty and injustice that plagues the city, and all of that comes into play. But it’s becoming too easy to blame the woes of the neighborhood on the rise of violence. It’s a factor, but it’s not the decision-maker. It’s been too easy to place blame on the issues of society, but people need to start looking at themselves and the decision to pick up a gun. 

I’m a fan of Meek Mill. I love his music, the fact that Philly raised him, and that his struggle – while much of it self-inflicted – is authentic. Pull my Spotify and you’ll find multiple tracks off his discography most days. One of the tracks that to me sticks out is coincidentally named Gun Violence in which Meek speaks to what it’s like to grow up “around the way.”

Yeah, this that treacherous nights, Killadelphia type shit/Hold your [30mm] tight, when you go to sleep

All we know is gun violence/Go to jail, come back and now your son wildin’ 

Got a price all on his head, don’t give a fuck ’bout it/Sittin’ on the couch with his grandmamas, smelling like gun powder 

Yee, Yee, all we know is gun violence/He just smoked a n*gga broad day, ain’t give a fuck ’bout it; Now it’s murder gone to his head, he gettin’ a rush ’bout it.

This is the life that exists in Philadelphia, which, as Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw pointed out during Tuesday’s virtual meeting, is now the second-highest murder capital in America, next to Chicago. There’s a sadness in the notion that no one is immune to the violence as more children are ending up in area hospitals from being caught in the crossfire and more and more pre-teens have become targets. 

“At the end of the day, we can sit in a million roundtable discussions, hold emergency meetings and create civic groups to try and change all of this, but sometimes we need those doing the killing to hold themselves accountable.” 

Summer has always been a ruthless time in the city, but seasonal temperatures exacerbated by a pandemic that has shuttered other meaningful activities, coupled with back and forth vitriols from those shuttered inside on social media, have made this one we won’t soon forget. 

There’s no naivety on my part what the mitigating factors are that force people to decide to pull a gun and go after someone. Money, drugs, disrespect and one’s personal pride all play factors into the “beef” that has fueled the violence in our communities. But I have to ask, what beef is honestly worth shooting up an entire block? Spraying innocent people who have no idea why you’re pissed off and are just trying to live? To the pieces of shit out there running around shooting up city blocks and clipping random people with reckless abandon because you’re targeting the one person on that block who called you names on Tik Tok or Instagram, or because someone “disrespected your girl,” consider the following. 

The 3-year-old toddler or 10-year-old with a bright future despite their circumstances your bullets will hit had nothing to do with it. 

The respected grandmother who’s lived in the neighborhood for decades who’s been forced to watch her once-thriving street become a blighted block your bullets might hit had nothing to do with it. 

Your decision, one glamorized by rap lyrics, films and a culture that offers little education into the real world, is warping your sense of reality and is your problem and not the problem of the aforementioned people. 

At the end of the day, we can sit in a million roundtable discussions, hold emergency meetings and create civic groups to try and change all of this, but sometimes we need those doing the killing to hold themselves accountable and think for a second about the scores of other lives they irrevocably will change going after the lives of a few. 

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    Kerith Gabriel is the editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. Journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.