Gun Violence

Jeffrey Benzing / PublicSource

 A subtle breeze and pristine blue sky set a peaceful scene in the Hill District this morning, so the immediate thought might not be on the dozens of young men killed in the span of only a few blocks.

I write novels for a living, and novels are about how characters deal with the intrinsic conflicts that make them who they are — and their efforts to overcome them. Sometimes characters are able to overcome their conflicts and sometimes, in tragedies, they succumb to them, which results in ruin. This is why it troubled me so much to witness recent events unfold like something out of a book.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

About 100 teens, many of them covered in splattered paint, gathered at the corner of North Homewood Avenue and Idlewild Street in Homewood on Tuesday.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

On the heels of the sit-in staged by Democrats in the House of Representatives last week, one Pennsylvania Congressman took to the steps of Pittsburgh's City-County Building on Wednesday to renew calls for lawmakers to hold a vote on proposed gun reforms.

Hydro / flickr

Gun violence is the leading cause of mortality among young black men and the county needs to treat it as a public health issue, according to Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

How do we help to prevent this?” Hacker asked. “And how do we help communities to heal because the impact of this kind of violence is really like post-traumatic stress in many of our communities.”

She found an ally in the local Christian community.

On June 17, 2015, Malcolm Graham learned that his sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, a librarian and a devout Christian, was one of nine victims shot and killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Here is Graham, a career politician who recently lost a Congressional bid in North Carolina, in his own words on what it was like to lose "the glue" that held his family together.

I was at home getting ready for bed in Charlotte and I saw the news scroll at the bottom of the TV. It said that there was a shooting in Charleston at Emanuel and people were feared dead.

A gunman opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning, killing at least 50 people in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history before being shot dead by police.

Canadian2006 / Wikimedia Commons

An adult homicide charge has been filed against a 14-year-old Mount Pleasant boy after he allegedly shot and killed his 13-year-old friend while playing with a handgun in a neighbor’s house.

A Westmoreland County judge will now have to decide whether to decertify the case, which would send it to juvenile court for a maximum possible sentence of seven years, when the boy would turn 21.

Monroeville attorney Patrick Thomassey, who has represented juveniles facing adult charges, said the limitations of juvenile courts' jurisdictions in Pennsylvania make that a tough choice.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of residents filled South Avenue United Methodist Church in Wilkinsburg on Saturday to talk about crime and community development following Thursday's shooting that killed five people, including a pregnant woman.

Among community members and leaders was Michael Walker, whose son, Jerry Shelton, died in the mass shooting.

“My son was my oldest," Walker told the crowd. "He was a good man. A good, caring and loving man.”

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

    

The street where Carol Speaks grew up is only blocks from where her grandson Antwann died.

At 19 years old, he was shot 17 times, according to Carol, in front of witnesses just down the street from Homewood’s Westinghouse Academy.

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

  Monica Hawkins can still laugh at her son Donté’s sense of humor as she replays it nearly four years later on YouTube. And she can smile at the uncanny resemblance her grandson Jaiden has to his dad. The same smile. The same mischievous energy.

But fresh tears come when she recounts the night Donté died at age 20, the helplessness she felt at the scene, and the hole his loss leaves in their family.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

  Police are puzzled why the city's aggravated assaults, shootings and calls for shots fired all rose in 2015 as the number of homicides fell to levels more on par with previous years, Police Chief Cameron McLay said Friday.

Traditionally, shootings are a good measure for a city's homicide rate, McLay said. That didn't hold true for Pittsburgh in 2015.

Marcin Wichary / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s Superior Court upheld a nearly six- to 12-year sentence for a Chester woman convicted of illegally buying firearms for her felon boyfriend.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP Images

Monday marks the 3rd anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 and injured many more. Since 2012, mass shooting have appeared to be on the rise, with recent incidents in San Bernadino and Colorado Springs.

While arguments about gun laws are a major point of contention in these shootings, mental health also remains an important factor. Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy (R-18) has been examining the United States’ mental health laws and has crafted the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 in an effort to fix the issues of mental health in the country. Murphy joined Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to explain the law and what it could mean for the US.

Casey Chafin / 90.5 WESA

  A day after community leaders called for an end to the violence in the city, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Police Chief Cameron McLay said Wednesday there are fewer homicides this year despite an uptick in area shootings.

“It’s not an epidemic of violence outside the norm of this city,” McLay said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Black community leaders pleaded with Pittsburgh residents on Tuesday to end the gun violence that resulted in a string of deaths and injuries to local children this month.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Guns for Opportunity program officially launched in Braddock Tuesday night with 26 guns turned over to Allegheny County Sheriff’s deputies. Before the official 4 p.m. start time, nearly a dozen guns had already been  surrendered.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

After a violent few weeks in the Pittsburgh region, a local labor union is trying something a little bit different to get guns off the streets.

Many cities hold periodic gun buyback programs in which residents can drop off a gun without fear of arrest and get money or gift cards in exchange. With that same theory in mind, Boilermakers Local 154 is launching the “Guns for Opportunity” program. Through it, a firearm can be turned in, and in exchange, an individual will receive free training in the union’s welding program.

Gun Shot Survivors Find Their Lives Forever Changed

Nov 24, 2014
Ken / Flickr

More than one-hundred thousand people in America are shot each year. Seventy-five thousand survive.

Many of them still carry the bullet. How has it impacted their lives? We pose that question to reporter Chris Togneri who spent six months interviewing survivors, including Jeff Smith, a Pittsburgh Police detective who was shot in the line of duty.  They join guest host, Tribune Review reporter Andy Conte, in Studio A.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

According to a 2014 report from the Children’s Defense Fund, American children and teens are four times more likely to be killed by gun violence than Canadian kids, 13 times more likely than French kids, and more than 64 times more likely to be killed by guns as children in the UK and Germany.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh (LWVGP) wants to talk about guns--not just ballot boxes.

The citizens' organization is holding its second Gun Safety in a Free Society event on Wednesday Feb. 26 at the Kingsley Center on Frankstown Ave.

Best known for its candidates' forums and election guides for voters, the League will address issues such as gun safety, teenage gun violence, and how to keep guns out of the wrong hands in Allegheny County.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Marcus L. White, Jr. would have turned two years old on Wednesday.

But when he was just 15 months old, he was killed when someone fired shots into a family picnic on East Hills Drive.

In his honor, City Council declared Tuesday, February 18, 2014 to be “Marcus Lamont White, Jr. Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.

Around three dozen of Marcus’s family, friends, and supporters crowded into Pittsburgh City Council chambers for the proclamation on Tuesday.

Among the speakers was Andre Scott, the cousin of Marcus’s mother, Jameela Tyler.

A national nonprofit is organizing candlelight vigils across the country, including one in Pittsburgh, to honor the 20 children who lost their lives last year in Newtown, Conn.

On Saturday, Organizing for Action will host “Remembering Newtown—A Candlelight Vigil” at Heinz Chapel on the University of Pittsburgh Campus at 6:30 p.m.

Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, nearly 200 children under the age of 12 have been killed in gun accidents, homicides or suicides, according to the nonprofit news organization Mother Jones.

A national firearm safety organization is calling on Congress to enact comprehensive background checks for gun purchases on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Leading up to Dec. 14, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will host a “week of action” to honor the 26 lives lost in Newtown, Conn. and bring what the organization is calling “common-sense reforms” to the nation’s gun laws.

Each day of the week, participants will take part in “daily calls to action.”

Claudia Alvarez / Photo courtesy of the Society for Contemporary Craft

A group of toddlers stands with their hands in the air; another toddler points a gun straight at them.

This is the first thing visitors to the new Contemporary Craft exhibition ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out will see.

The scene is part of a ceramic sculpture series by Claudia Alvarez, who is one of fourteen artists included in the exhibition.

Preventing Homicides Through Early Intervention

Oct 24, 2013
Matt Niemi / Flickr

Each year, the city of Pittsburgh sees more than 100 homicides.

A new study by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that 30% of last year’s homicides could have been prevented by early intervention.

Richard Garland, M.S.W., visiting instructor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and Steven Albert, Ph.D., chairman of the department, co-authored the study and say most of the criminal activity was a result of peer violence, not gang-related violence.

Standing Your Ground in Pennsylvania

May 31, 2013
University of Pittsburgh Law School

The killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin brought attention to stand your ground laws last year. A number of states have laws which dramatically expand the definition of self defense, often including personal property. So what do the self defense laws look like here in Pennsylvania? University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris is currently part of an American Bar Association National Task Force on stand your ground laws, looking into their overall impact on society.

Leaders hope a new commission will reduce violence and promote positive mental health in Allegheny County.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he formed the Public Health Commission on Preventing Gun Violence and Promoting Community Mental Health upon request of state Rep. Ed Gainey of the 24th Legislative District.

“We’re going to be focused on making sure we look at the best practices, the best ideas, implement them in our community and doing all that we have to do to make sure that we reduce and eliminate the violence in our neighborhood,” Gainey said.