More than 500 shootings in Philadelphia so far this year — with another four just this weekend– represents an increase of nearly 8 percent compared with the same period in 2017. Many of the shootings go largely unnoticed by the public, but each incident takes a devastating toll on families, friends and neighborhoods as the murder last fall of two South Philadelphia teens illustrates.
At a court hearing last week for the alleged killer, Brandon Olivieri, 17, more than a dozen police officers and sheriff’s deputies were called to stop the pushing, cursing, and yelling among friends and relatives of the accused and the victims, Salvatore DiNubile and Caleer Miller, both 16.
The judge had to limit access to the courtroom after the scuffle erupted. Olivieri’s relatives said they were forced to move out of the city after receiving threats. DiNubile’s father was arrested in March and charged with threatening a friend of Olivieri’s, as the raw emotions continue to reverberate.
In a victim impact statement, DiNubile’s sister described dark days and silent meals at home. Similar sadness and torment plays out in homes across the city and beyond directly impacted by shootings.
Another shooting victim, Lariq Byrd, 17, needed the help of a wheelchair accessible van provided by Magee Rehabilitation Hospital to attend the senior prom at Simon Gratz High School.
Byrd was shot and paralyzed the day after Christmas in 2015. He has been largely confined to his bed for months underscoring the lifetime of health challenges stemming from the shooting three years ago. Byrd is just one example of the untold emotional and financial burdens that shootings victims and their families must confront daily.
Sadly, the daily shootings in Philadelphia and elsewhere are largely taken in stride. Even mass shootings in schools and elsewhere come and go with just a brief flurry of attention. Elected officials at the city, state and local level pay lip service but do very little to try to curb the daily gun violence.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a Senate committee last week that the federal commission on school safety that was established after massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., will not focus on the role guns play in school violence. That’s akin to creating a commission to examine lung cancer but not looking considering the role cigarettes play.
Since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High, more than 150,000 children have experienced a shooting at at least 170 primary or secondary schools, according to an analysis by the Washington Post that does not include suicides, accidents, or after-school assaults.
A majority of American teens and parents say they are worried about a shooting happening at their school, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
Such fears prompted one parent at St. Cornelius School in Chadds Ford to give away a unique graduation gift to the eighth graders: a bulletproof shield for their backpacks.
Good luck in high school next year, kids. Sending thoughts, prayers and bulletproof shields. Meanwhile, elected officials remain absent from any effort to curb the gun epidemic that is destroying families.