Ubiñas How to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day

During a City Council Public Safety Committee hearing, Temple Hospital’s Scott Charles (center) testifies along with Philadelphia Police Capt. Francis Healy (left) and Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA.

I'M TRYING hard not to be cynical about National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 2.

To mark the occasion, people are encouraged to #WearOrange.

It actually has an inspiring backstory, according to the press surrounding the campaign. In 2013, some friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a South Side Chicago student who was murdered, asked classmates to honor her by wearing orange. The students inspired the Wear Orange campaign (wearorange.org), working to reduce gun violence in the U.S. Obviously a work in progress. As I write this, news is breaking of a shooting at a UCLA campus that left two dead.

But back to keeping my cynicism in check.

Reducing gun violence was also the goal of a hearing I attended Wednesday at City Hall for a commonsense gun bill to safely store firearms.

Before I headed over, I called the Police Department for updated numbers of shootings in Philly so far this year.

The good news is that there were a lot fewer shootings over Memorial Day weekend than we'd feared.

The bad news is that there have been 462 shootings as of May 31, compared with 383 at the same time last year.

So . . .

Philadelphia residents remain hyper aware of gun violence without wearing orange or any other color that's supposed to call attention to a reality they live with every day.

Gun violence is what keeps many mothers and fathers in this city up at night.

It's what worries children who shouldn't have to fear their lives will be cut short.

It's the soundtrack of too many people's lives in Philadelphia.

And, increasingly, in this country - to a point.

As writer German Lopez noted in an article for Vox, social media exploded Wednesday over the potential for another mass shooting. I added my tweet to the mix.

"Here we go again, America," I tweeted.

But then came the news that it was a murder-suicide, and we all kind of moved on.

It wasn't a mass shooting. It was just, you know, regular, everyday gun violence.

And as Lopez and others have noted, including my colleague Will Bunch, Americans too often turn a blind eye to the type of gun violence that kills thousands more people but doesn't capture our attention or fears in quite the same way. Especially when the violence is of the low-income, urban variety.

Looking around City Council chambers Wednesday, I noticed a lot fewer people at the hearing than had attended another hearing on youth gun violence in March - and the room wasn't exactly overflowing that day either.

Some of that could be because, as I've often complained, we do way more talking about gun violence inside fancy buildings than we do on the streets where blood is shed.

But also because the bill being discussed didn't fit the narrative of violence we're so used to discussing around here: unnecessary, mindless violence.

The legislation, introduced by Council President Darrell Clarke, would require all guns in homes with kids under the age of 18 to be kept unloaded and stored and locked away, with ammunition in a separate locked container.

It's not a cure-all. It's nowhere near perfect, as the NRA types will line up to tell you.

There is the big issue of enforcement. But it makes sense to at least try to keep kids, whom we so often fail to keep safe on the streets, safe in their homes.

One of the ideas I liked best came from Scott Charles, trauma director at Temple University Hospital, who testified in support of the bill.

For the last year or so, Charles has been quietly offering gun locks to gunshot patients at the hospital, "many of whom will be discharged from our care having grudges, guns, and kids - but no gun locks," he said.

In Philadelphia, he testified, a firearm injury is the leading cause of death for young black males between ages 15 and 24. Combine gun suicide and homicide and it's the leading cause of death for all Pennsylvanians age 21 and under.

That includes a 4-year-old Kensington girl who in April was fatally shot by her father while he was handling a gun.

When we spoke earlier, I asked Charles why he chose to offer gun locks to gunshot victims, considering that most of Philly's gun violence plays out with illegal firearms on our streets, as he knows all too well.

"Detroit didn't have a problem until it had a problem," he responded. Amid a rash of recent shootings, a Detroit prosecutor called accidental shootings of children in that city an epidemic.

Also, Charles said, he's already talking to gunshot victims in the hospital: It doesn't take any more time or effort to talk about one more way to combat gun violence.

It's one more way, one more chance to potentially save a life.

And saving one life at a time, one gun safety bill at a time, maybe one gun lock at a time, may be as good a reason as any to #wearorange.


215-854-5943 @NotesFromHel