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McClinton wants gun violence declared a public health crisis

April 26, 2018 GMT

During a series of hearings on gun violence before the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191), highlighted what she called the disparity in coverage of gun violence between low-income communities of color and more affluent majority-white communities.

“While it took tragedies like the Parkland [Fla. high school] and Las Vegas shootings to gather us here, I would like to remind everyone that communities of color in Philadelphia, Delaware, Berks, Dauphin, Cambria and Allegheny counties have been victims of gun violence for decades,” McClinton said during her testimony.

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Over the past two weeks – for the period ending April 23 – there were approximately 476 violent crimes committed in the city, according to Philadelphia Police Department statistics.

Those numbers include three homicides, 31 rapes, 52 robberies involving guns, and 196 aggravated assaults.

Over the last 28 days – through April 23 – PPD reported a total of 874 violent crimes in the city.

McClinton has called on the House Judiciary committee to acknowledge gun violence as a public health crisis like opioids.

She insisted that lawmakers immediately advance legislation that would keep guns out of the “wrong hands,” and provide adequate funding for prevention programs and to the Office of the Attorney General for its Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Such actions could benefit individuals of color who repeatedly are victims of gun violence, McClinton said.

“The Center for American Progress reports that African-Americans and Hispanics represent nearly 79 percent of all gun homicides in Pennsylvania. From 2005 to 2014, Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for the rate of gun deaths among African-Americans,” McClinton said.

“Although African-Americans make up about 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, they account for nearly 70 percent of gun homicides in our commonwealth. Moreover, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation for the highest gun death rate of Hispanics, second only to Arizona,” she said.

McClinton also railed against testimony from others who claimed that gun violence was either a public safety or mental health issue.

“It’s a gun issue,” she said. “Just last year, 570 Pennsylvanians were victims of homicide by a firearm and 259 of these homicides took place in Philadelphia,” McClinton said.

While nearly one in every two gun-related homicides took place in Philadelphia County, gun violence is wreaking havoc throughout Pennsylvania, she said.

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“This is not a public safety issue. This is not a mental health issue. This is a gun issue. We must work toward keeping firearms out of the wrong hands” McClinton said.

“This does not mean we want to take away everyone’s guns. We only want to make sure that responsible, law-abiding citizens have access to firearms. And so, should you.”

Haywood Secures Funds for Rebuilding Philadelphia Together Seizing upon the news that Gov. Tom Wolf has committed more funding for housing programs through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) fund, state Sen. Art Haywood (D-4), announced that $400,000 was given to Rebuilding Together Philadelphia to stabilize middle income neighborhoods in the 4th district.

A total of 52 counties and 137 housing development initiatives will thrive from this funding including the West Oak Lane neighborhood in Philadelphia County, Haywood said in a news release.

Haywood then announced a foreclosure prevention initiative for Philadelphia that he said would be led by Regional Housing Legal Services.

“Foreclosure prevention measures further protect homeowners and the value of homes in middle neighborhoods and I was a sponsor and advocate for the new housing program that allows PHFA to provide this money,” Haywood said.

In 2016, the state legislature passed a law that created the PHARE Fund.

“Changing laws in Harrisburg makes a difference,” said Haywood, who was joined by others including state Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald (D-203) and U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans.

“In the city of Philadelphia, more than 40 percent of the population live in Middle Neighborhoods. Our Middle Neighborhoods are truly caught between bust and boom and they are solid neighborhoods that are being squeezed because they aren’t poor enough or wealthy enough,” Evans said.

“This is where I come in as your voice in Congress. Throughout my career, I have been fighting to invest in our Middle Neighborhoods before it’s too late. Now on the national stage I am doing all I can to give our Middle Neighborhoods a clear lane in our federal policy.”

For her part, Fitzgerald announced the approval of up to $2.1 million in state financing for the planned Golden Age Living Accommodations (GALA) building that’s planned for construction at 2030 E. Haines Street.

GALA has been approved for up to $1.2 million in low income housing tax credits and $500,000 in funding from the realty transfer tax, Fitzgerald said.

She also noted the $400,000 for Rebuilding Philadelphia Together.

“I’m pleased the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority has approved financing for more affordable housing in Northwest Philadelphia. This will help to meet an important need in our communities,” Fitzgerald said.

“It’s wonderful that this will help more people to stay in their homes safety instead of having to go to a retirement home,” she said.