In cities across the country, domestic terrorism is a daily reality, said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at a talk on Monday afternoon.
Before an audience of students and community members that included Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Nutter said urban areas in the United States are defined by a culture of violence. Nutter, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, emphasized the government’s inability to enact gun safety legislation and presented the “Sandy Hook principles” — a code of conduct for gun-affiliated corporations to protect American citizens that was written by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Nutter said roughly 30 firearms homicides occur per day in the United States but politicians have not given proper attention to the prevalence and destructive nature of gun violence.
“In essence, we have a Sandy Hook every day,” he said. “Yet, you will not see these folks on CNN. Apparently, it’s background noise.”
Nutter said his hometown of Philadelphia has one of the highest murder rates in the country — the city has seen 72 murders in 2013. In the time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 citizens, over 100,000 Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence, he said. A host of reforms and legislative changes took place during the period following 9/11, but “there’s not been a commensurate response to gun violence in cities,” he added.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposal by a vote of 54 to 46 that would have mandated universal background checks for gun buyers.
Still, Nutter said he remains confident that change will come. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has called for the adoption of the “Sandy Hook principles” — which include the promotion of restrictions on firearms sales and mandatory background checks for those buying firearms and ammunition — by companies in the gun industry and all those indirectly related to it, he said. The document does not seek to limit Second Amendment rights, but rather establish a set of good business guidelines that better protect American citizens, Nutter added.
Gun violence disproportionately affects people of color, Nutter said, adding that in Philadelphia, roughly 80 percent of homicide victims are African-American.
“You cannot escape the issue of race in this discussion,” Nutter said. “[Gun violence is] almost genocidal in communities of color.”
Nutter also outlined several ways in which he has worked toward reducing violent crime as mayor, including emphasizing stricter prosecution of illegal gun possession, enacting criminal employment programs and linking community organizers with law enforcement.
“This is the most serious issue, other than education, which I’ll ever work on,” Nutter said.
Acquiring a gun in Philadelphia is too easy, he said, adding that drug dealers often give their customers free firearms as “icing on the cake” after a transaction and citizens can rent guns from some providers.
Audience members interviewed said they agreed with Nutter’s opinions and his comments were especially relevant given the recent Senate vote.
New Haven resident William Gleason said he appreciated that Nutter was candid about the prevalence of black-on-black crime and the statistics of gun violence.
“He’s on top of what’s going on,” Gleason said.
Wendell Adjetey GRD ’18 said he was happy that Nutter addressed black violence in cities but he felt the mayor was should have addressed the issue of race further.
Nutter testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on the issue of gun violence in January.