Crusade for Safety: Pennsylvania Pledges Unprecedented Investment in Gun Violence Prevention

Lt. Governor Austin DavisCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania is embarking on a bold new chapter in its quest for safety. At a recent Capitol news conference, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis waved the flag of change, joining gun safety advocates and family members of gun violence victims to advocate for a substantial investment in the state Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a cog in the wheel of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s broader plan to make Pennsylvania communities safer.

“Every citizen, regardless of appearance or location of residence, deserves to feel secure and safe within their homes and neighborhoods,” Davis urged. As the nation still grapples with the epidemic of gun violence, particularly among young people, Pennsylvania looks to lower its own high rates with targeted, strategic investments aimed at enhancing public safety.

The ambitious strategy proposed by the Shapiro-Davis administration pledges $100 million, a sum that includes $1 million earmarked for the establishment and funding of a statewide Office of Gun Violence Prevention. This office, a cornerstone of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency chaired by the Lieutenant Governor, brings together federal, state, and local efforts to curb gun violence.

Legislative counsel with Everytown for Gun Safety, Mary Kenah, added her voice to the chorus of supporters, acknowledging the critical role of the dedicated Office of Gun Violence Prevention in bringing about a whole-of-government solution to the gun violence that continues to ravage communities across Pennsylvania. “We need leaders like Lieutenant Governor Davis to support these critical efforts,” she said.

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention will concentrate its efforts on four key aspects: community outreach and technical assistance, inter-agency cooperation (federal, state, and local), addressing the intersection of gun violence with domestic violence, and data, research, and evaluation. Pennsylvania thus stands poised to be among the early states to establish such an office, answering the White House’s call for statewide action.

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Brady President Kris Brown hailed it as a landmark move, saying, “Focusing on understanding trends in Pennsylvania’s gun violence, community outreach, and the critical intersection of domestic and gun violence will enable the Commonwealth to take a proactive approach to stopping gun violence before it happens.”

While the dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic saw gun violence and crime rates surge, recent years have seen a decline, notably in Pennsylvania. Yet, despite registering the second-highest decline in gun homicides in 2023, according to the Center for American Progress, the figures remain substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels. This calls for a renewed vigor in the fight against gun violence.

The Shapiro-Davis budget also includes an additional $37.5 million increase for the successful Violence Intervention and Prevention program, a $5 million spike for the Nonprofit Security Grant Fund, $1 million for a Firearm Injury Prevention Program within the Department of Health, $11.5 million to create a statewide Building Opportunity through Out of School Time (BOOST) program, $11 million to create more welcoming environments by building parks and improving shared spaces, and $1.5 million to increase staffing at the Pennsylvania State Police.

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero articulated the collective sentiment, “It is long overdue for action to stop the cycle of gun violence that has touched every corner of our society. Reasonable gun safety measures will not infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners. This initiative is a significant step towards that goal.”

As Pennsylvania sets its sights on a safer future, the fervent hope is for a successful union of policy, investment, and action to stem the tide of gun violence. This road towards ensuring collective safety represents an opportunity for Pennsylvanians to come together, despite political divides, to jointly foster safer communities, proving that indeed, every cloud has a silver lining.

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