The impact of gun violence transcends the victims and must be addressed |
“Three knocks on Kennywood.” “Man shot dead at McKeesport.” “One man shot dead, another injured in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.” “Vehicles hit by gunfire in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh.” “Two minors shot dead in Pittsburgh Sheraden.”
These are the headlines of a weekend of violence in the Pittsburgh area.
Just a weekend.
Why? What is causing so much armed violence in the region?
It’s not something that just broke out when the kids went back to school. Over the summer, crime on the South Side caused an outcry from businesses begging for law enforcement. At least one store has closed, with Fudge Farm saying it cannot ask its young workers to risk their lives for a job selling candy.
It is not confined to the Pittsburgh city limits, although as the region’s densest population, it leads the way.
But what’s most important to recognize is that a casualty or two here and there – again and again – is a simple but terrible math problem over time.
To date in 2022, there have been 76 homicides involving firearms in Allegheny County, according to the county’s latest reports.
But that’s not entirely true.
The last victim on the list was Dante Jones on September 9, who was shot multiple times in his car at a Penn Hills gas station. That includes nothing for more than two weeks, including Warnell Boyd, 46, who was found on the doorstep of a house on Bedford Avenue in the Hill District on Saturday.
But even beyond the time frame, the list is sadly incomplete because it only measures a specific type of victim. There are more victims than he can count.
It also does not include the other victims – those who did not die but suffered gunshot wounds. It does not include others reported in reports of violent clashes. Robert Dietrich, 78, of Kennedy, is known for his June 17 homicide, but not his neighbor, Charles Collins, who killed himself after killing Dietrich.
This does not include grieving and broken family members who may not have scars but are victims nonetheless.
It does not include homeowners whose quarters are torn apart by bullets. That doesn’t include other business owners – those who keep their doors open and try to lure in customers when every weekend looks a lot like this list of horrible headlines.
It’s in the aftermath of a shooting like the one that scattered bullets around a North Side Airbnb house party over Easter weekend or the Tree of Life mass shooting in Squirrel Hill that people talk about problems and solutions.
The real problem is that we are not adequately dealing with the accumulation of bodies and victims over time in an epidemic of violence that cannot be prevented with vaccines or masks. It is not a daily, weekly, regular conversation acknowledging how many people we are losing in the tragedy of gun crime that has become as endemic as the common cold.