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Supporters rally behind Shapiro plan to reduce gun violence

Austin Davis speaks at a lectern while surrounded by a group of people holding signs calling for investment in gun violence prevention.
Johnny Palmadessa
Commonwealth Media Services
Lt. Gov. Austin Davis joined gun safety advocates and family members of gun violence victims at a Capitol news conference to call for an investment in the state Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which is a key part of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget and plan to make Pennsylvania communities safer.

Holding back tears, Dr. Ashlee Jaffe recalled being shot at during a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Ill.

Jaffe said she had been bedside with patients who had been shot, but nothing could have prepared her for experiencing it herself in 2022 when a gunman injured 48 people and killed seven.

“This violence takes a toll on our communities and families physically, emotionally, and financially,” she told reporters at the state Capitol this week.

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 1,905 deaths by firearms in Pennsylvania. And nationally, firearms are the leading cause of death among children.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has put forth a $100 million plan to combat gun violence as part of his budget proposal, and $1 million of that would help create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis joined Jaffe and others in calling for passage of this plan earlier this week.

“We can’t thrive as a commonwealth if our children aren’t safe when they’re walking to school or riding on a bus,” he said. “We can’t thrive as a commonwealth if people aren’t safe when they’re at their church or at their synagogue or at their mosque. We can’t thrive as a commonwealth if we aren’t delivering on the basic need for public safety in every neighborhood and in every community.”

If created, the gun violence prevention office would focus on things such as community outreach and technical assistance. It would also coordinate with federal and local partners, address intersections between gun and domestic violence and research and evaluate data.

It would fall under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which is led by Davis.

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, represents the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh. In 2018, that neighborhood bore witness to the worst antisemitic attack in American history with the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which killed 11 people. He joined Davis in calling for the funding.

He said Shapiro’s proposal could protect communities.

“The funding in this administration’s budget will support programs on the ground to address community violence, aid with study and data collection, and ensure that every level of government is working together for gun violence prevention and to protect vulnerable communities like mine where 11 Jews were murdered five years ago as they attended Shabbat services,” he said.

The fate of Shapiro’s plan rests on the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republican leaders have argued the overall budget proposal is too expensive.