U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. Jr., who did an about-face on gun control three years ago, came to Philadelphia on Monday to talk with like-minded individuals about his efforts, and to solicit their ideas on dealing with gun violence.
“This is a grave matter for the country and, candidly, it’s an issue that we haven’t tackled in a manner that’s commensurate with the threat that’s posed,” the Democrat told representatives of Mothers in Charge, Philadelphia CeaseFire, CeaseFire PA, and others at a roundtable at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Then he asked for their input.
As the senator took notes, participants explained the pervasive culture of gun violence in many Philadelphia communities, and spoke of the need for education and community involvement to solving the problem.
“If you change how a person thinks, you change their behavior,” said Dorothy Johnson-Speight, director of Mothers in Charge.
Marla Davis-Bellamy, director of Philadelphia CeaseFire, said, “All too often, particularly when you talk to young people, they think that this is the way life is, and it’s always going to be this way. . . . We have to tell them that it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Former Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, now a fellow at Drexel University studying the school-to-prison pipeline, said change will require a community-based approach.
“We need to look at all the elements going on in our communities . . . and gain that community’s trust,” Bethel said.
Casey, who grew up in Scranton, said he changed his mind about gun control after a mentally disturbed individual, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
Sandy Hook shows that the traditional divide between urban and rural approaches to gun control is narrowing.
“No community is safe if we don’t begin to take stronger action,” Casey said.
To that end, he and others want to achieve four things: expand background checks; ban military-style assault weapons; limit magazine capacity; and mental-health reform to deal with people who shouldn’t have access to firearms.
In an interview afterward, however, Casey acknowledged that there is no consensus in the Senate for gun control.
Of the four measures he and other gun-control advocates want, the only thing that has bipartisan support is mental-health reform, he said.
“Even if we were successful on all four [legislative] measures,” Casey said, “we’d still have some major challenges. . . . It is an epidemic.”
(c)2016 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.