Lt. Gov. Austin Davis speaks during the ceremonial swearing-in of U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, on Sunday, 2/19/23 (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons).
PITTSBURGH — Lt. Gov. Austin Davis is on a statewide tour to highlight initiatives that are focused on curbing gun violence in communities across the commonwealth, in many cases by addressing the root causes of violent crime before it can take hold.
“One prong is supporting community-based organizations that are doing the work on the ground,” the western Pennsylvania Democrat told the Capital-Star. “But the reality is we need to pass common sense gun reform legislation.
“I think the state House took a big step earlier this year in passing two gun reform measures. We need to pass those reform measures in Harrisburg and get them into law. This isn’t a uniquely Pennsylvania problem but an American problem, and it’s something we can do something about,” Davis said.
Davis, who is chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, highlighted several programs in Pittsburgh — where he kicked off the Safer Communities tour this week — as examples he said are doing the work of “violence interrupters.”
The still-unfinished state budget would provide $40 million in Violence Intervention and Prevention grants through the PCCD, with a focus on gun-related and group violence.
One of the programs he referenced in the Pittsburgh area was Allegheny County’s first Office of Violence Prevention, which Davis worked on when he was with the Allegheny County Executive’s office.
“We looked at violence in our communities from a public health perspective,” Davis said of the program, which he said has grown by “leaps and bounds” since: Earlier this year, the county committed $50 million to help grow that office’s work, he added.
The lieutenant governor also pointed to the work of the Rev. Paul Abernathy, CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project, which focuses on trauma-informed community development, including a mobile trauma response unit; and the Rev. Glenn Grayson, who started the Center That CARES (Children/Adults Recreational & Educational Services) in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood.
Grayson’s son Jeron was shot and killed in 2010, and in 2014, Grayson started the Jeron X. Grayson Center to provide career development, academic counseling and other educational experiences for Hill District youth.
“Part of our tour is to highlight the good work that’s happening, but also going to communities that sometimes feel forgotten in this fight, so they know that they have government leaders who are with them,” Davis said, “and who are trying to drive out solutions. We want to elevate the solutions that are working in trying to take them to a different level.”
The problems, and the statewide tour, are not confined just to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Davis added. The Safer Communities tour will also include stops in York, the Lehigh Valley, northeast Pennsylvania, Erie, and Philadelphia,
“We’re gonna have to deal with the root causes of violence, like poverty, like making sure children have access to quality education, making sure young people have ladders of opportunity,” he said. “It’s got to be a comprehensive approach. And I think a lot of that work is happening. It’s really going to take all of us working together to try to stem this tide.”
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