YORK, Pa. — In 2020, 43,000 Americans were killed by guns, according to Gun Violence Archive.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis,” said State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans (D-York).
That crisis has not spared York, where a shooting on Saturday left one teenager dead and another in the hospital.
A public discussion on prevention of gun violence brought York leaders and community members to gather at Lincoln Charter School on Monday night. Panelists included law enforcement, elected officials, school officials and gun violence prevention activists.
Many panelists and audience members have been personally affected by gun violence.
“My son Chad Merrill was murdered in 2018,” said Pearl Wise, whose son was shot and killed in York after defending a friend from a tirade of racial slurs.
“On the way here, a mother called me crying because her landlord is kicking her out because her child got murdered in front of her home,” said Tonya Larry of The Movement of York, a community nonprofit.
The event’s flyer encouraged attendees to “bring your voice and bring your solutions.” Panelists also shared strategies they are trying right now.
Lincoln Charter School, for example, has worked to make the walk to school safer by installing 64 cameras in and outside their buildings and adding more lights and crosswalks to streets near the school.
“The school is safe when they come in, but what do they have to cross through to get here?” said assistant principal Anne Clark.
The York County District Attorney’s office is pushing its Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, which diverts some people struggling with addiction from the criminal justice system.
“They go into a special caseload and an assessment is made as to whether or not treatment will be available to them for their mental health issues,” said District Attorney Dave Sunday.
York Police Commissioner Michael Mouldrow has put a major focus on police-community relations, and said it is starting to yield positive results.
“At the same time that we have a reduced number of complaints because our officers are working harder and working better with the people that live here. They're still putting on numbers, they're still getting guns off the street, to the tune of at least gun a day,” Mouldrow said.
Community members listed some of the challenges that remain.
“Poverty is one of the main issues that plagues our communities,” said Tonya Thompson-Morgan, an investigator on the York Human Relations Commission.
Organizers of the event were optimistic that collaboration would bring about better ideas.
“No one person has the ideal [solution], but many of us together have the ideals and can work together to bring about that change,” said York City Councilwoman Edquina Washington.