By the time this op-ed runs, these statistics will already be heartbreakingly out of date: More than 1,300 Philadelphians have been shot so far this year, with over 300 murdered by gun violence. Those figures alone should be reason enough to act.
But it appears that the violence affecting our neighbors, especially those most painfully affected by income and opportunity disparities, isn’t enough to move leaders to necessary action. So let’s try something else. Perhaps if we highlight the massive economic devastation this continuing crisis presents to our city and our communities of color, we may finally see the kind of movement that will save lives—and Philadelphia.
I’ve spent the majority of my advocacy career growing and supporting the kinds of diverse-owned businesses that create jobs, innovate industries, and power the success of Philadelphia. Knowing the impact crime has on our economy—especially our resilient-yet-hurting Black and Brown entrepreneurs—Republican leaders in the Harrisburg majority must immediately act on the ever-growing gun violence crisis in our city. The state’s precedent for addressing the opioid emergency shows that we know that a top-down, statewide commitment is essential for dealing with a crisis of this nature. No resource for this crisis should be off the table.
When our neighbors across the Commonwealth live in fear, our businesses suffer. Our state legislature has the power to help stop that suffering and rebuild trust and safety in our city. Inaction is a choice.
In 2020, gun violence in Philadelphia cost the government an estimated $195 million in medical and criminal justice costs alone. When social costs such as pain, suffering, lost wages, and economic productivity are factored in, the financial toll of violence in the city is staggering. In fact, each homicide is estimated to cost from $10 to $19 million, according to the CDC. The 499 homicides in Philadelphia last year had an estimated economic cost of over $4.99 billion. State leaders have both a moral and economic imperative to invest in evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs.
Every local post-pandemic recovery plan has a specific focus on rectifying the inequities Philadelphians of color continue to face in both access to healthcare and economic resources. As we recognized in the recently approved city budget, almost every city department has a role in addressing gun violence because of its exponentially higher physical and economic cost to our Black and Brown communities.
Gun violence is a statewide crisis, but it undeniably occurs in most significant concentrations in the regions occupied by majority-minority communities. When our neighbors across the Commonwealth live in fear, our businesses suffer. Our state legislature has the power to help stop that suffering and rebuild trust and safety in our city. Inaction is a choice.
As Adam Garber, executive director of CeaseFirePA, illustrated so clearly in a July 2021 Inquirer op-ed“Community groups haven’t heard a word about the gun violence prevention money promised in Philly’s new budget”:
And community organizations who have been squeezing life-saving actions out of every dollar are still waiting for the infusion of $20 million. Not a dime has flowed to groups working tirelessly to prevent even more violence in our neighborhoods every day. The initial announcement proposed forming a community advisory committee to support the grant process and ensure the money goes where it can have the greatest impact. That committee has yet to form, and no call for community proposals that could already be saving lives has been issued.
While plans to distribute the monies are in motion, we cannot afford any delays. We must get local groups the funds they need to act in their neighborhoods while we work to move our legislators in Harrisburg to act for the good of every Pennsylvanian.
Advocating for sensible gun laws that protect our neighborhoods and families is deeply personal to me—as both an activist and a citizen of Philadelphia. As an ardent supporter of Students Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, and CeaseFirePA, I will continue advancing effective gun policies to keep our families and communities safe everywhere.
Lives are at stake. Livelihoods and businesses are in peril—and, as the lifeblood of our economy, this threat to them risks the economic recovery and growth that Philadelphia so desperately needs. I implore our state legislative leaders in Harrisburg to enact a concentrated plan with clear goals, timelines, and actions to address our gun violence crisis together. Let’s make a difference for our city before it’s too late. We can—and we must.
Jonathan Lovitz is a democratic candidate for the 182nd District (Center City) of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He is a union member and small business public policy expert living in the Center City Gayborhood. Follow him at @jdlovitz.