The Commonwealth's black homicide victimization rate is nearly six times the national overall homicide rate at 28.30 deaths per 100,000 persons. That's according to a new analysis of unpublished FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data. Anti-gun violence group CeaseFirePA said nearly half of all gun deaths in the state are murders, and nearly all are committed by someone with an illegal gun. But, Executive Director Max Nacheman said the issue hasn't been a legislative priority.
"It has been decades since a serious policy was put in place by our state legislature to try and do something about the gun violence," he said. "They rejected a common sense law enforcement-supported reform to require lost or stolen handguns to be reported missing to the police. They've refused to acknowledge the Florida loophole. They've refused to fix Pennsylvania's participation in the national background check system, which is incredibly poor."
Nacheman said the group is not anti-gun, and supports 2nd Amendment rights, but he added action needs to be taken to reduce the supply of illegal guns into communities, and a law that stiffens penalties for those found with illegal guns needs to be on the books. The state's ranking did fall from first and second place in recent years, but that doesn't mean fewer people are dying.
"If anything, things are getting worse," said Nacheman. "That ranking is just based on a ratio, so the number of deaths we have each year in Pennsylvania is staying just as high."
There are several reasons for the high victimization rate in the African-American community, among them poverty, lack of education, and joblessness. Nacheman said the good news is that each of those issues can be tackled, but communities must work together. In terms of battling gun violence, he said the illegal guns generally come from theft, straw purchases, and trafficking, and there are ways to address those things.
"Lost or stolen handgun reporting is a really basic reform that almost four dozen cities, including Pittsburgh, have passed. That would require gun owners to tell the police if their firearms go missing. It's a basic step that could help them catch straw purchasers or gun traffickers who buy guns then sell them illegally to people who can't get them themselves," said Nacheman.
The top ten states in terms of highest black homicide victimization rate are: