Philadelphia youth call for tighter firearms restrictions, increased funding to combat gun violence

‘The place where I felt safe no longer felt safe. Everywhere you go, you have to be on guard. You have to teach your kids what to do in these situations. You have to live with the fear that maybe one day, you or your family won’t come home,’ Emely Seda said Monday

By: - August 8, 2022 2:57 pm

Philadelphia youth advocates hold a press conference in Harrisburg on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, calling for gun reform. (Capital-Star photo by Marley Parish)

Proms, not funerals. Essays, not eulogies. Books, not obituaries. Kids, not guns.

Those were just one of the messages on a dozen of hand-drawn signs as a group of more than 30 Philadelphia kids and teens gathered in the Capitol on Monday afternoon, urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to take action against gun violence across the state.

When Emely Seda, a 17-year-old who lives in north Philadelphia, hears a “bang,” she automatically assumes it’s a gunshot.

“And my heart drops,” Seda said during the press conference. “Is this the moment? Is this the moment that changes the lives of my family and [me]? I live in this constant fear that one day, my family and I won’t come home.”

On Sept. 15, 2021, shots were fired outside Seda’s school. What started as an altercation between two students escalated when one of the kids “pulled out a gun,” Seda said.

“It was complete chaos,” Seda said, describing the scene of kids fleeing and the subsequent school lockdown. “After that day, everyone lived in constant fear that it would happen again. The place where I felt safe no longer felt safe. Everywhere you go, you have to be on guard. You have to teach your kids what to do in these situations. You have to live with the fear that maybe one day, you or your family won’t come home.”

Seda was just one of more than 10 kids to share their experiences with gun violence, all of whom called for legislative action.

The United States has seen an increase in gun violence nationwide. In Pennsylvania, roughly 1,600 people die from gun violence, and 3,000 more are injured each year, according to CeaseFirePA, a firearms safety advocacy group.

The most recent state budget, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last month, allocates $35 million in gun violence prevention funding. Earlier this year, Wolf announced another $15 million investment to combat the issue through American Rescue Plan funds.

But on Monday, the youth activists — representing Pennsylvania Youth Vote, Frontline Dads, and Community Rising — urged lawmakers to do more, including allocating additional funding to combat gun violence through community programs and passing legislation to tighten the firearm licensing process.

The press conference comes roughly one month after the Fourth of July, when a gunman opened fire during a parade in Highland Park, Ill., killing seven and wounding more than a dozen people. That same weekend, crowds in Philadelphia fled during a fireworks display after two officers were shot on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Those were just two in a series of gun-related incidents over the holiday.

Legislative Democrats have called for stricter firearms restrictions, including universal background checks, red flag laws, and mandatory lost and stolen gun reporting guidelines. However, Republicans, who hold the majority in Harrisburg, have effectively voted down the proposals or have not called their legislation up for a committee vote.

Pa. Senate OKs firearm legislation preempting local gun ordinances, expanding concealed carry

In June, House Republicans gutted a gun control bill and inserted language to allow people without permits to carry concealed weapons. Legislative Republicans have instead focused on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner when it comes to gun violence in Philadelphia, launching an effort to impeach him, introducing legislation to limit him to two terms in office, and forming a committee to investigate the causes of rising crime during Krasner’s tenure.

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Marley Parish
Marley Parish

A Pennsylvania native, Marley Parish covers the Senate for the Capital-Star. She previously reported on government, education and community issues for the Centre Daily Times and has a background in writing, editing and design. A graduate of Allegheny College, Marley served as editor of the campus newspaper, where she also covered everything from student government to college sports.