The Democratic mayor of Philadelphia blamed Republicans in the Pennsylvania State Legislature for the epidemic of violence as the city has accumulated a near-record number of homicides in 2021.
During a press conference discussing the most recent incident Wednesday, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney lamented the city’s skyrocketing homicide rate. “I’m personally heartbroken and outraged that we lost 500 Philadelphians, including many of our children and teenagers to needless violence this year,” Kenney said. “I never stop thinking about the victims and their families and the incredible loss these senseless deaths leave behind.”
499 people have been killed so far this year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That number is a 13% increase from the same point in 2020, which ended with 499 murders. The city is on track to surpass the record set during the crack cocaine epidemic of 1990 and to possibly reach the highest number since 1960, which the Philadelphia Police Department said is as far back as their statistics go.
“On its own, 500 lives cut short is a staggering number, but as I said, what this number will truly never show is the thousands of other lives impacted by sudden and tragic loss,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters at the press conference. “We deserve better, our children deserve better, our community deserves better.”
Kenney also demanded more gun control in an attempt to combat the violence. He said that Philadelphia Police were expected to confiscate more than 6,000 guns used in violent crimes this year, a 40% increase since 2019, according to Fox 29.
“The volume of guns that are in circulation in our communities is at a record-high,” he said. “[Crime guns] join a sea of illegal and legal guns that are accessible in the heat of the moment, turning what could have stayed an argument into a homicide.”
He then went after the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania State Legislature over perceived inaction. “The Pennsylvania General Assembly must allow us to enact reasonable controls on guns in our city. Until this happens, we will continue to work tirelessly in response to the crisis,” he said.
Kenney went on to cite the example of a man who shot and killed a co-worker at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, then engaged in a firefight with Philadelphia Police that injured two officers. “The guy had an AR-15 with three clips, he was in his third clip, shooting at our officers,” Kenney said. “Now, if you want to be on the legislature in Pennsylvania and say that you support police, you support law enforcement, then get the guns off the street and stop our officers from being shot at.”
“There are people making money selling these guns, making these guns, and the legislature don’t care, they don’t care how many people get killed. It’s ridiculous.” Kenney quipped.
Philadelphia is one of many major cities in the midst of a staffing shortage after Kenney agreed to cut $14 million from the police budget and eliminate a $19 million funding increase, on top of the city council’s decision to cut $33 million of funding for fiscal year 2021. The city has also restricted the ability of police officers to pull over individuals for minor traffic violations.