The first time John Solomon picked up a gun, he was 11 years old.

Pennsylvania's soon-to-be state Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked him if he felt it might be the wrong thing to do.

He didn't.

"It was common," Solomon said. "I grew up watching people exposing me to guns."

Today, Solomon is 24 and on probation after serving nearly five years in prison for assault with a firearm.

"My family members suffered because of the actions I committed, but I didn't know that at the time when I was in the streets," he said. "I was young and I was misguided. I didn't have any empathy."

Now, Solomon works with his uncle Darryl Shuler as a volunteer hoping to quell violence in North Philadelphia, trying to convince young people not to shoot each other.

Solomon and Shuler were among the more than 20 people who spoke at a community forum hosted by Shapiro Tuesday morning. As he prepares to be sworn in as Pennsylvania's highest law enforcement officer next month, Shapiro, a Democrat, is touring cities from Allentown to Pittsburgh to collect feedback on major issues, such as the opioid epidemic.

In Philadelphia, the conversation centered on gun violence. It's a city where 1,206 people have been shot — but survived — and 258 have been killed so far this year.

Shapiro presided over a conference table at a health clinic in North Philadelphia. Seated closest to him were some of the city's bold-faced names, including Police Commissioner Richard Ross, District Attorney Seth Williams and Council President Darrell Clarke. Elsewhere around the table were leaders of various organizations, such as Mothers In Charge, CeaseFirePA, and Father's Day Rally Committee, who have been working on this issue for years.

A common theme was a lack of funding for the patchwork of small groups such as Shuler's that work on the ground in violent neighborhoods and know the victims and the criminals personally.

"It's kids that don't have clothes," he said after the forum ended. "They don't have places to live. I'm telling you — they taking boarded houses up, un-boarding them up and living in them."

Many of these kids, Shuler said, turn to drug dealing to make money.

"A gun is the tool of the drug trade," said Malik Aziz, a longtime activist and former gang leader and drug dealer who served time in prison. "You got to have a gun to be in the drug trade because you don't want people to rob you ... so you can protect yourself.

"And the guns is easy to get. I can go right now — me — right down the street and get a gun if I want one," he said.

Several participants in the forum made the case that the state attorney general's office and local law enforcement need to partner with activists Shuler, Aziz and others who understand these issues — and the people affected by them — on a grass-roots level and often do their work on a shoestring.

An infestation of guns

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, said many times, these organizations do not effectively partner with each other. And there is another issue:

"Where are these guns coming from? We need to know," Goodman said. "That data exists. It is hidden behind some walls. We have the power to work with police jurisdictions across the state to get it."

Shapiro could not guarantee more funding for these groups, but he said he would like the state attorney general's office to work more closely with them and "get them rowing in the same direction." He also wants to collect the missing data on how illegal guns used in crimes are trafficked in the state.

Shapiro said he recently met with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman whose office recently released an online tool to monitor gun-trafficking data.

"I was stunned at the number of guns that are coming from Pennsylvania that were on that chart," Shapiro said. "I think it's important that we gather that data in Pennsylvania as well."

Shapiro also said he wants to expand the Philadelphia gun violence task force and push for a statewide requirement to report lost and stolen guns.


Written by Katie Colaneri for NewsWorks.

Sheriff Jewell Williams recently named Deputy Sheriff Officer Robert Hunisch the Military Affairs Liaison for the sheriff’s office as part of its ongoing efforts of community outreach and education.

“Many veterans are returning from long campaigns overseas,” said Sheriff Williams, “and may have issues involving deeds, keeping up with mortgage payments, or looking to buy a property through a sheriff’s sale. We want to make sure they receive all the information necessary to aid in their readjustment”.

DSO Hunisch, who currently lives in South Philadelphia, served in Guantanamo Bay guarding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, and is an 8-year Army veteran who currently serves in the reserves.

“There are so many veterans out there who can use the help we are trying to provide,” he said, “and I can’t stress enough how important these outreach efforts are to helping soldiers get back to a normal life”.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are approximately 50,000 veterans nationwide who are homeless, and those veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are among the highest number of individuals who are losing their homes to foreclosure and/or taxes.

“We already sponsor numerous workshops and seminars to educate people on how to keep your home as well as how to purchase a home and it’s our goal to get as much of this information out as possible”, said Sheriff Williams, “and dedicated deputies like Hunisch are helping us do just that”.

For more information contact Joseph Blake at 215-495-4174.


Published by The Philadelphia Sun.

Angel Lee was pregnant when she moved to the LGBTQ Home for Hope in North Philadelphia nearly six months ago. A man who refused to believe her sexual orientation had raped her.

She decided to keep the baby, whom she delivered this past Tuesday, naming her Sky Sakina Barnes Lee.

Before giving birth, Lee shared her story Sept. 1 with eight representatives from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office. They had come to the shelter on North Hutchinson Street to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

In that time, the home has hosted city, state and federal officials. It’s the first shelter for LGBT homeless people in Philadelphia.

Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin, one of two LGBT liaisons in the sheriff’s office, organized the anniversary visit. John Hodges, a civilian employee and the other LGBT liaison, also attended.

“I really want these officers to get to know the community,” Austin, an openly gay deputy, told the residents, “not in a cell and not in a courtroom. These statistics and these definitions are nice, but if they don’t know you, they won’t care.”

After Lee shared her story, the officers brought in bundles of baby supplies. Lee held back tears0 and, while posing for photos later, she joked, “I’m actually touching a cop without getting in trouble.”

Lee will have to leave the Home for Hope now that she has given birth. The shelter is not equipped to house an infant, officials said. She’s not sure yet where she will move. But she said she would still visit the residents.

“We’re a family here,” said Anya Martin, who has lived at the home for a year.

At the hour-long celebration, several residents shared their coming-out stories and experiences with law enforcement. Austin also talked about how the sheriff’s deputies had supported the LGBT community in the field.

For each person living in the Home for Hope, 38 officers sponsored 38 bags of donations. They included sheets, pillows and blankets, along with an array of toiletries. Austin also asked each officer to write a personalized note to the resident who would receive each bag. He included a statement from Sheriff Jewell Williams and a description of the work he’s doing as LGBT liaison.

Chief Sheriff Deputy Kevin Lamb said the office is so much more educated about the LGBT community because of Austin.

Deja Lynn Alvarez, director of the Home for Hope, said she was happy to have the sheriff’s office representatives spend time at the shelter and get to know the residents.

“It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s been a year,” she said, “with no real financial backing.”

Donations cover the expenses, which Alvarez said in July can run $8,000-$9,000 a month.

“It really sets in like, we’re still here, we’re still full,” Alvarez continued. “Our first year has been difficult. I feel like our second year will be better.”

Sakina Dean, the owner of the Home for Hope, said she’d like to purchase the 15-bedroom, nine-bathroom former convent. Its current owner, Northstar Manor Inc., has agreed to a price of $250,000, which is half of the place’s market value, according to Philadelphia property records.

Standing out front, facing the large side yard, Dean pointed out where she would eventually like to see a youth shelter and affordable housing. Alvarez would like to get experts to offer workshops on life coaching and personal finances.

“It has been a journey,” Dean said of the Home for Hope’s first year. “Through faith and through our mission, I believe it’s going to continue to be a success.”

For more information or to support the home, visit http://ow.ly/Jnjs302onH1.


Written by Paige Cooperstein for the Philadelphia Gay News.

La Oficina del Sheriff, en colaboración con el Presidente del Consejo Municipal Darrell Clarke, están comprometidos con la distribución de seguros de armas a los propietarios de armas en Filadelfia para promover prácticas seguras de contención de armas de fuego y evitar accidentes con armas, robo y uso indebido.

El uso de un arma de bloqueo es fácil. Simplemente retire el extremo suelto del cable del candado y el hilo a través de su arma descargada como se muestra en la hoja de instrucciones que se incluye. Con la llave girada a la posición de las agujas del reloj más lejana, inserte el extremo suelto del cable en el candado. A continuación, gire la llave hacia la izquierda y retire la llave. Compruebe que el cable está bien conectado. Su arma está bloqueada y segura. Asegúrese de que usted almacena su clave y municiones a algún lugar lejos de la pistola.

Para recibir un bloqueo de la pistola, puede recoger una en la recepción de la oficina del Sheriff en la 5ª planta de 100 S. Broad Street entre las 8:30 am y las 4:30 pm, o llame a nuestro número de la línea en 215-686 -3572. Deje su nombre, número y dirección y alguien de la oficina del Sheriff será rápidamente en contacto con usted.

 

 

Gun-owning Philadelphians need to know about a new law requiring their safe storage in your residence if minors are living with you. That means equipping guns with gun locks.

The bill was introduced last April by Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, following a number of high-profile preventable tragedies involving children with firearms across the country. Approximately 265 children gained access to a firearm not equipped with a safety lock, and shot someone else or themselves.

Meeting at Temple University Hospital, whose emergency rooms have witnessed a heavy share of such accidents, on Aug. 1, to spread the word were City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Council Safety Chair Curtis Jones, Jr., Sheriff Jewell Williams, District Attorney Seth Williams, Temple Hospital officials and several community anti-gun-violence groups.

Kicking off the program was the announcement gun locks would be distributed to gun owners at several National Night Out locations in the city Aug. 1 and 2. (For more information on gun locks, owners may call the distribution hotline at (215) 686-3572.)

Clarke said, “Philadelphians are required to keep firearms and ammunition locked away out of the reach of any minors present in the home. This bill was necessary since Pennsylvania is one of 47 states that lack safe-storage laws, despite a number of high-profile tragedies involving children accessing deadly weapons.

“There are few things more outrageous than the death of a child by her own hands or the hands of a playmate or sibling, simply because adults did not act responsibly and keep guns locked far out of reach,” Clarke said. “Children who die in these entirely preventable tragedies are not the only victims: The children who pulled the trigger and the adults who failed to keep them safe must live with an indescribable shame for the rest of their lives. Keeping guns safely stored away from kids is inexpensive and easy, and I’m grateful to our partners for making these gun locks freely available to the public.”

“Gun violence is an epidemic in the city of Philadelphia,” said Amy Goldberg, MD, FACS, professor and chair of the Dept. of Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, surgeon-in-chief for Temple University Health System, and medical director of perioperative services at Temple University Hospital. “We’ve seen too many incidents where children have access to guns and accidently shoot others or themselves. One life is too many and whatever we can do to preserve a life is a step in the right direction.”“As an army officer and a Philadelphian, and most importantly as a dad, I know guns in the hands of people who should not have them can cause accidents, injuries and sometimes death,” said DA Williams. “It is an honor to stand with this coalition. I look forward to continuing to work with this team, and anyone else, who can help us distribute and advocate for the use of gun locks so we can do the important work of saving lives.”

“Sadly, as evidenced by the number of gun victims that are treated here at Temple and throughout Philadelphia, we are a city that is awash in firearms,” said Scott Charles, MAPP, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital. “It is difficult for most people to comprehend the kind of damage that bullets do to the adult human body. The kind of devastation they cause small children is truly unthinkable. We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this kind of suffering and death.”

Approximately 1,000 gun locks were given away over two days of National Night Out events beginning Monday. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there were more than 10,500 reported deaths from unintentional shootings from 1999 to 2014, of which 2,366 were deaths of minors. From 2001 to 2013, more than 215,000 nonfatal unintentional firearms injuries were reported, of which approximately 55,000 were injuries to minors.

“As part of our anti-crime efforts, giving away free gun locks to secure weapons, will make children safer in their own homes,” said Jones.

Also in attendance for the announcement at Temple University Hospital were Dr. Larry Kaiser, president & CEO, Temple University Health System; Dorothy Johnson Speight, Mothers in Charge; Bilal Qayyum, Father’s Day Rally Committee; Sandy Sheller, Sheller Family Foundation; Shira Goodman, CeaseFirePA; Rev. Bonnie Camarda, the Salvation Army; and representatives of Philadelphia CeaseFire.locked away out of the reach of any minors present in the home. This bill was necessary: Pennsylvania is one of 47 states that lack safe-storage laws, despite a number of high-profile tragedies involving children accessing deadly weapons.

“There are few things more outrageous than the death of a child by their own hand or the hands of a playmate or sibling, simply because adults did not act responsibly and keep guns locked far out of reach,” Clarke said. “Children who die in these entirely preventable tragedies are not the only victims: The children who pulled the trigger and the adults who failed to keep them safe must live with an indescribable shame for the rest of their lives. Keeping guns safely stored away from kids is inexpensive and easy, and I’m grateful to our partners for making these gun locks freely available to the public.”

Sheriff Williams added, “A gun lock is a tool that can be used to keep the public safe, including children and inexperienced gun-owners, regardless of whether the weapon is registered or not. The message is all about gun safety for everyone and saving lives. Got a gun? Get a gun lock!”

“As an army officer and a Philadelphian, and most importantly, as a dad, I know guns in the hands of people who should not have them can cause accidents, injuries and sometimes death,” said DA Williams. “It is an honor to stand with this coalition. I look forward to continuing to work with this team, and anyone else, who can help us distribute and advocate for the use of gun locks so we can do the important work of saving lives.”

“Gun violence is an epidemic in the city of Philadelphia,” said Amy Goldberg, MD, FACS, professor and chair of the Dept. of Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, surgeon-in-chief for Temple University Health System, and medical director of perioperative services at Temple University Hospital. “We’ve seen too many incidents where children have access to guns and accidently shoot others or themselves. One life is too many and whatever we can do to preserve a life is a step in the right direction.”

“Sadly, as evidenced by the number of gun victims that are treated here at Temple and throughout Philadelphia, we are a city that is awash in firearms,” said Scott Charles, MAPP, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital. “It is difficult for most people to comprehend the kind of damage that bullets do to the adult human body. The kind of devastation they cause small children is truly unthinkable. We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this kind of suffering and death.”

Approximately 1,000 gun locks were given away over two days of National Night Out events beginning Monday. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there were more than 10,500 reported deaths from unintentional shootings from 1999 to 2014, of which 2,366 were deaths of minors. From 2001 to 2013, more than 215,000 nonfatal unintentional firearms injuries were reported, of which approximately 55,000 were injuries to minors.

“As part of our anti-crime efforts, giving away free gun locks to secure weapons, will make children safer in their own homes,” said Jones.

Also in attendance for the announcement at Temple University Hospital were Dr. Larry Kaiser, president & CEO, Temple University Health System; Dorothy Johnson Speight, Mothers in Charge; Bilal Qayyum, Father’s Day Rally Committee; Sandy Sheller, Sheller Family Foundation; Shira Goodman, CeaseFirePA; Rev. Bonnie Camarda, the Salvation Army; and representatives of the Philadelphia branch of CeaseFirePA.


The Philadelphia Public Record

"Got a gun, get a lock."

That's the motto of a new initiative by Philadelphia City Council, law enforcement agencies and those working to reduce deadly violence to encourage gun owners to lock their weapons.

The Philadelphia sheriff's office expects to give out more than 500 free gun locks Monday during National Night Out events and plans to distribute thousands more in the weeks to come.

During a news conference announcing the effort Monday morning, Council President Darrell Clarke said anyone can get one — no questions asked.

"We are not going to ask you to show ID or registration for your weapon because, frankly speaking, if someone wants to lock an illegal gun, I'm OK with that," he said. The city has spent about $2,000 purchasing gun locks so far, according to Clarke's spokeswoman Jane Roh.

Clarke and other advocates said the effort would help prevent children from accidentally shooting themselves or others — in June, a 4-year-old from North Philadelphia died after shooting herself in the head. Monday morning, Philadelphia police said a 5-year-old in Germantown shot himself in the hand and was reported in stable condition.

"It just takes a few seconds to unlock that gun," said Shira Goodman with Ceasefire PA. "But for the person who is contemplating suicide or is angry or is depressed at that moment, the couple seconds it takes to unlock that gun could mean the difference between their life and death or somebody else's."

Gun owners who would like a free lock can get one by calling the city's Safe Storage Hotline, 215-686-3572, even if the weapon was purchased illegally or is not registered.

Free gun locks will also be distributed during National Night Out events at the following locations:

Fair Hill Square Park
4th and Lehigh Street
Monday
5 to 8 p.m.

Rose Playground
North 75th Street and Lansdowne Avenue
Monday
6 to 8:30 p.m.

32nd and Cumberland streets
Tuesday
5 to 8:45 p.m.


Written by Katie Colaneri for Newsworks.