Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus applauds bravery of police after six officers shot & thanks Gov. Wolf for signing executive order on gun reform

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 16 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, along with its Philadelphia members, applauded the brave efforts of the Philadelphia Police Department and thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for signing an executive order to implement comprehensive gun reforms, in the wake of the two mass shootings in Philadelphia this week.


“Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus as well as myself, commend the restraint and dedication of the Philadelphia Police Department in securing the scene that resulted in this heavily armed suspect being apprehended alive and no injuries to innocent bystanders,” Kinsey said. “This career is rife with dangers, making returning home safely at the end of a shift a lingering uncertainty, but these men and women put those fears aside to fervently protect us.”


A gunman began firing shots around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when police were at a house in the Tioga section of North Philadelphia to serve an arrest warrant, according to news reports. Six officers were shot, all of them were eventually treated at the hospital and released, and the gunman was taken into custody after the standoff.


State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said he, too, was grateful the violence Wednesday ended without the loss of life or any additional injury to the suspect, officers or the public.


“I was at the hospital Wednesday for hours and saw the bravery of our officers and medical professionals firsthand,” Kenyatta said. “I also saw the anguish of having to deal with yet another shooting in our beloved city. North Philly is a beautiful community of hardworking folks and this is not why we should be receiving national media attention.”


In roughly 24 hours and just two miles away, however, four men and one teenage boy were shot in the Ogontz section, which is in Kinsey’s legislative district.


“I am devastated to learn that exactly 24 hours after the harrowing police standoff in Tioga, a second mass shooting unfolded in my district,” Kinsey said, adding, “I’ll be forever grateful that there were no fatalities in these latest mass shootings, but two mass shootings exactly one day apart, compounded by daily shootings, is proof that we desperately need comprehensive gun reform immediately!”


Sen. Sharif Street also responded, saying, “Good guys with guns couldn’t stop a single well-armed individual with a military grade firearm and enough ammunition to endanger countless law enforcement officials. The routine thoughts and prayers have become empty rhetoric and will continue to ring hollow unless substantive changes are made around the proliferation of these weapons. I am proud to offer legislation restricting the sale and purchase of military grade weapons and accessories. Our faith without works is dead.”


State Rep. Danilo Burgos agreed with Street’s pledge on procuring legislation restricting the sale and purchase of military grade weapons and accessories. 


“We need to understand that these are not weapons used for hunting,” Burgos said. “We need to understand that these are weapons used to cause damage and to cause harm to our communities.”


State Rep. Jason Dawkins, chairman of the Philadelphia House Delegation, agreed with. Street and Burgos’ calls for restrictions on military-style weapons, but also raised providing measures to reduce the number of handguns on the streets of Philadelphia.


“We can take the steps to ban assault weapons, but we have to take it a step farther,” Dawkins said. “There are plenty of handguns in the streets as well. The number one killer in our city are 9mm handguns. I lost my 21-year-old brother to a handgun.


“We are all coming together to get illegal firearms off our streets to make our streets safer because that is the number one thing folks want to see in this city,” Dawkins said. “A part of that is addressing our poverty issues, a part of that is addressing our education issues and a part of that is addressing our quality of life issues.”


Rep. Joanna McClinton, chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, agreed with Dawkins’ assertion of all addressing the other components, education and poverty, that cause gun violence.


“Many of the lives lost are young people who never realize their potential or dreams,” McClinton said. “To save our youth, it takes a village. I am a strong advocate for grassroots community organizations and their mentorship approach to curbing gun violence locally. We as federal, state, and local legislators must combine forces with law enforcement and support these organizations doing the work to intervene with our most vulnerable.”


Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell said everything that can be done to stem the gun violence in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth must be done.


“The lawmakers who are blocking commonsense gun safety reforms continue to be complicit by not having us vote on bills that would help keep people safe in our communities, not just with mass shootings but with the high rate of suicides by gun,” Johnson-Harrell said. “We are saying enough is enough, and it’s time to move on this issue.”


Sen. Vincent Hughes said gun violence is a public health concern.


“I support Governor Tom Wolf and his efforts to address the public health crisis of gun violence we face in communities across the commonwealth. His unilateral efforts are necessary in a state where the legislature has failed to respond to the demands of the millions of people who want smart, thoughtful and commonsense gun laws."


According to news reports, Pennsylvania has experienced upwards of five mass shootings so far in 2019, in conjunction with the eight that have happened in Philadelphia, alone.

“It’s important for everyone to understand that this is a Pennsylvania problem; this is not just a Philadelphia problem. We need to work on these issues collectively. We need to leave our partisan work aside and work for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Burgos said.


Kinsey expressed his gratitude to Wolf for signing an executive order to curb gun violence in the city and across Pennsylvania. The new order requires state agencies to collect more gun violence data, prompts state police to bolster their monitoring of white supremacists and other hate groups and increases efforts to aid local police departments in responding to mass shooting threats, among other things. The order directs various agencies in his administration to create new state offices focused on violence prevention and reduction, expand programs that promote safety, refocus departments on combatting gun violence as a public health crisis, and increase collaboration and data sharing between the public, government agencies and other states.


“I am grateful that Governor Wolf has broken the mold in this unprecedented move by jumping to action with this executive order to establish a comprehensive plan to save more lives and keep our communities safe,” Kinsey said. “Governor Wolf laid the foundation with this executive order and it’s now on us as lawmakers to pass this legislation.”


Kinsey pointed to the nearly two-dozen pieces of legislation that would address the root causes of gun violence. Each could be voted on as immediately as today.


“The continued stalling sends a clear message to many of our communities plagued by violence,” Kinsey said. “That message is very loud and very clear.”