Pittsburgh’s Fourth of July celebrations were punctuated by gunfire on Monday, as four people were shot downtown following the fireworks. Mayor Bill Peduto attributed it in part to the ease with which young people are able to obtain guns.
“This is happening again and again and the age seems to be getting younger and younger,” Peduto said.
Peduto said he believes in the second amendment and the right to own weapons, but we have created a gun culture. He lamented the lack of action from Harrisburg or Washington, DC.
“If we knew that a toaster killed 30,000 a year, we’d do something about that toaster,” Peduto said. “30,000 people die every year and the only response is there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Peduto said it’s a public health issue, and if we treat it as such we might be able to lessen the number of guns, change the culture and prevent things like this from happening in the future.
The State Supreme Court ruled in Pittsburgh’s favor recently, rejecting an amendment that allowed the National Rifle Association to sue the city for passing a bill requiring gun owners to file a report if their weapons are lost or stolen.
“If you lose your car you report it stolen, if somebody breaks into your house you call the police. If you lose your gun, you should report it stolen,” Peduto said.
The mayor said he’s hesitant to enforce the ordinance because the state legislature is considering a standalone bill that would again give third parties the ability to sue municipalities. He expressed frustration that similar legislation doesn’t exist at the state or federal level.
“It doesn’t say you can’t own a gun. It doesn’t say you can’t own 100 guns. It’s saying when it’s lost or stolen that you have to report it,” Peduto said. “We can’t even get that kind of common sense out of our state legislature at this point.”
Pittsburgh is celebrating the 200th anniversary of city incorporation. The mayor said nearly 300 descendants of the city’s mayors will be attending the celebration.
“We encourage people to come out and celebrate our city’s history,” Peduto said.
A parade that will track the city’s history commences at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Different nationalities will perform dance routines in Market Square later that afternoon, and at night a band will perform at Point State Park where fireworks begin around 9:30 p.m.
The mayor addressed the city’s failure to obtain a national Smart City grant. Columbus received the grant, but Peduto said they will try to pursue some aspects of the plan they presented in DC.
“We are in the process now of taking apart everything we put together over the past six months and creating smaller projects in order to … see this happen,” Peduto said.
He said the timeline will be extended from three years to ten years and they are working to identify partners and funding sources for many of the initiatives.
The mayor also acknowledged a water quality report that showed lead levels that have increased from 4 parts per billion in 2001 to 14.8 in 2013. Federal standards require lead levels to be below 15 parts per billion.
“The vast majority of houses are in compliance and at lower levels,” Peduto said. “But there are some, about 5 percent that aren’t.”
He said the problem is not the city’s water lines, but the pipes that connect houses to the main water lines. The city is providing free lead testing kits so residents can find out whether their water is clean.
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