Report: Will Pittsburgh’s gun-ban put more of the city’s black residents in harm’s way? | Wednesday Morning Coffee

March 13, 2019 7:20 am

The Pittsburgh skyline, viewed from the Duquesne Incline. (Dllu/WikiMedia Commons)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Since its introduction in the wake of last year’s murderous rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue, there’s been no shortage of argument, debate, and protest surrounding Pittsburgh’s proposed gun ban.

Writing in The Atlantic’s CityLab this week, reporter Brentin Mock takes up a part of the story that has certainly been discussed, but has not garnered as much attention as one might think. Namely, will the proposed ban result in more of the Steel City’s black residents getting killed? And since one of the ban’s stated goals is to cut down on violence in African-American neighborhoods, it’s a question that deserves some exploration.

Here’s Mock:

“As Pittsburgh attempts to join the growing surge of cities and states placing new restrictions on gun handling, one major thing it will have to figure out is how to create laws that will take more illegal guns off the streets and save more lives, while ensuring that black people don’t become criminalized collateral damage in the process.“’You could do a house-by-house round up, potentially under the law, of certain neighborhoods,’ says Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. ‘That isn’t the way that we intended and that’s certainly not what we will do through the administration of it. It will be used as a deterrent in order to keep guns from proliferating in all of our neighborhoods, and it will be used as a way to help those who are going through and struggling with a difficult time in their lives, but it will not be used in a way that will target specific zones or neighborhoods.’

The Pittsburgh proposal would allow city residents to keep their guns, but it would ban them from carrying assault weapons in public. The bill also forbids the sale and purchase of assault weapons and ammunition. But as Mock writes, there are no gun stores within the city limits.

In any case, the ban would likely face an inevitable legal challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court struck a far more stringent ban in its landmark 2008 case, DC vs. Heller, which protected the individual right to bear arms.

(A Jewish emergency crew and police officers at the site of the mass shooting that
killed 11 people and wounded six at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Suspected gunman Richard Bowers, 46, has been charged
with 29 federal counts in the mass shooting that police say was fueled by antisemitism.
Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images – via the ADL)

According to Mock, while the bill generated plenty of debate, there was little focus on whether it would make the city’s black neighborhoods any safer. That soon began to change, particularly since data shows that blacks were the victims in 76 percent of Pittsburgh’s 58 homicides in 2017, Mock reports.

Here’s more from Mock:

“Activist Khalid Raheem of the New Afrikan Independence Party told the Public Source that gun control legislation doesn’t address all of the systemic failures of public institutions that lead to gun violence.

‘If it’s proposing to disarm black people, no, not in the age of Trump, and Charlottesville,’ says Claude “Paradise” Gray, an activist who worked to stem violence in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s through organizations such as Blackwatch. He is also co-founder of 1Hood Media, a Pittsburgh-based social justice organization. ‘We need to learn how to be safe with guns. I think every black child should be taught gun safety and gun control, but the gun control I want black people to learn is how to control your gun and how to control yourself.’”

And this final note:

“City council members say they are preparing amendments to the gun control bills that will address these concerns. When introduced later this month, they will be accompanied by a bill from city council member Robert Daniel Lavelle to increase funding for an organization called the Group Violence Intervention Unit, which identifies and offers wraparound social services to people who are most at risk of becoming either a victim or perpetrator of gun violence. The organization is credited with helping drop shootings to a 12-year low in Pittsburgh. In some ways this constitutes a benefit to black communities as a result of a tragedy that happened in a Jewish community. However, African Americans who support a right to defend themselves with a gun would see a protective benefit stripped away from black communities, on account of what happened in a Jewish community, should the gun control bills pass. That anxiety is backed by history.

“’We didn’t start the fire, but we always get hit with the water hose,” says Gray. “We always end up catching the brunt of discipline for s**t we didn’t do. We have a God-given right to defend our liberty and families by any means necessary like any other man.’”

Our Stuff:
Pa. Democrats easily held onto a pair of state House seats, prevailing in the 114th House District in northeastern Pennsylvania (Stephen Caruso has the details there) and the 190th District in Philadelphia (Sarah Anne Hughes has what you need to know on that one).

With Pennsylvania recognized as a nationwide leader on criminal justice reform issues, Elizabeth Hardison has your clip-and-save list of all the criminal justice bills making their way through the state Senate this session. If things go to plan, it could be another big year for reformers.

Our Washington reporter, Allison Stevensprofiles GOP U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County. Depending on whom you talk to, he’s either a ‘Republican enabler,’ or a canny, ‘bipartisan deal-maker.’

In this week’s edition of The Numbers Racketwe go deep on a new University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life poll that shows deep divisions, along racial and age lines, on issues ranging from schools and public safety to race-relations and water quality.

In legislative action, a state House committee advanced a bill banning vaping in schools. And two freshmen Republicans dropped a bill that would slap term limits on lawmakers. Stephen Caruso has the story in both cases.

On the Opinion side of the house, we observe Sunshine Week this week with a pair of op-Eds. Office of Open Records boss Erik Arneson talks about the stuff his office does to ensure government transparency. And Bradford Simpson, of the Pennsylvania News Media Association, throws a shout-out to the free press.

Philly will launch a low-interest loan program aimed at helping residents fix up their aging homesThe Inquirer reports.
Lawyers for state Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, say the sexual assault charge leveled against him is falsePennLive reports.
The mother of the late Antwon Rose has asked for peace as the trial of his accused killer, a police officer, gets underway, The Post-Gazette reports.
A ‘disturbing meme’ has prompted a western Pa. school district to fire its security firmThe Tribune-Review reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

BillyPenn runs down everything that’s known about the police shooting of an Ethiopian immigrant in West Philly.
The Morning Call runs down the race for Northampton County DA, where incumbent Democrat John Morganelli is calling it a career after 28 years.
Why is Philly burning half its recyclables in Pittsburgh? The Incline explains.
And then there were two: Philly state Sen. Tony Williams and ex-City Controller Alan Butkovitz are both primary-ing Mayor Jim Kenney, WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM wonders whether Pennsylvania’s opioid abuse crisis is finally over.
In the fight for school safety dollars, mental health trails metal detectorsStateline.orgreports.
Politico looks at House Democrats’ struggle for media oxygen in Donald Trump’s Washington.
Roll Call wonders if Republicans can make up ground in solidly blue New England in 2020.

What Goes On.
The House gavels in at 11 a.m. for its final session day of the week. Here’s the rest of Wednesday’s schedule.
9 a.m.: House Finance Committee, 205 Ryan
9 a..m.: House Gaming Oversight Committee, G50 Irvis
9 a.m.: House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee, B31 Main Capitol
9:30 a.m.: House Health Committee, 60 East Wing
10 a.m: House Labor & Industry Committee, G50 Irvis
10 a.m.: House Professional Licensure Committee, B31 Main Capitol
2 p.m.: Main Rotunda: Newser on safe patient ratios
The House Local Government and Appropriations committees meet at the call of the chair.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Russ Diamond (Bonus points if you showed up at 7 a.m. and said you’re on-time because you support his Daylight Saving Time bill).
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Harry Readshaw
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Joe Webster
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Steve Malagari
Ride the circuit, and give at the max at every event, and you’ll be out a paltry $8,500 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a rollicking tune from Frank Turner to get your Wednesday morning rolling. It’s ‘Bar Staff.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Pittsburgh got past Washington 5-3 on Tuesday night. Geno Malkin netted his 1,000th career point on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.