‘Thoughts and prayers are not enough.’ Advocates praise Shapiro’s plan to tackle gun violence

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis speaking at a Moms Demand Action rally at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Oct. 4, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

February 27, 2024

The Shapiro administration isn’t waiting for more “thoughts and prayers” to tackle gun violence. Shapiro’s proposed budget includes $100 million for gun safety and $1 million to create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Gun safety advocates and family members who lost loved ones due to gun violence joined Lt. Gov. Austin Davis at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday to highlight the proposed Office of Gun Violence Prevention from Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget.

Shapiro included $100 million in the 2024-25 budget to address and prevent gun violence throughout the commonwealth. The budget also includes $1 million to start the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which Davis chairs.  

“I started out as an activist. I was just like many of you, somebody who wanted to take action to stop gun violence in our communities,” Davis said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“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. Let’s be clear. Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

According to Davis, the responsibilities of the new office will touch upon four key areas.

“This office will focus on key areas like community outreach and technical assistance coordination with our federal and local partners, as well as addressing the intersections of gun violence with domestic violence and data research and evaluation,” Davis said.

Davis went on to mention that the office was proposed in response to the Biden administration’s call on states to participate in the Safer Streets Initiative. 

Ashlee Jaffe, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action and a pediatric physiatrist, spoke at Tuesday’s press conference and explained what it was like surviving a mass shooting. 

Jaffe was visiting relatives in Northbrook, Ill. over the 2022 Fourth of July weekend and attended a parade with her five-year-old son when a shooting broke out. 

“As a pediatric rehabilitation medicine doctor, I was at the bedside when countless patients and families were torn apart by a single bullet,” Jaffe said. “However, nothing could have prepared me for what it would feel like when my family was shot at while attending a July 4th community parade.”

Gun violence in Pennsylvania costs $21.7 billion each year, however the human toll is much more. Over 1,700 Pennsylvanians die each year due to gun violence while an additional 2,000 are wounded.  

The governor’s budget also includes $20 million for after school programs to keep kids and younger people off the streets and in safer environments. It also includes a $37.5 million increase for the Violence Intervention and Prevention program and $11 million to create recreational areas by building parks and addressing blight.

Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have held up gun safety measures passed by House Democrats last May. They include universal background checks for all gun purchases and extreme risk protection orders, which allows family members or local law enforcement to ask the courts to temporarily remove firearms away from someone if they are a risk to themselves or others. 

“Gun violence is a public health crisis that affects communities across Pennsylvania. To prevent it, we need a whole of government evidence-based approach,” Jaffe said.

“Partners like Governor Shapiro and Governor Davis are recognizing that fact and we’re grateful to them and other gun sense champions who are doing everything in their power to support and protect our communities.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: GUN REFORM | POLITICS

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