York City proclaims gun-violence awareness day

Sean Philip Cotter
  • Mayor Kim Bracey encouraged everyone to wear orange Thursday to raise awareness about gun violence.

The people who shoot at each other in York City are hurting more than just those they're hitting with bullets, Jerome Carter said.

It takes a toll on the families of the victims, of course, but also the community at large, instilling fear and causing chaos, said the York City resident.

"I associate the people doing the shooting as terrorists," he said.

Carter, who donned a shirt Tuesday morning that said "United Coalition against Violence of York, PA," joined Mayor Kim Bracey on Tuesday as she gave a news conference proclaiming that Thursday will be the second annual gun-violence awareness day in York City.

In this May 31, 2016 file photo, York City Mayor Kim Bracey sports a "Wear Orange" T-shirt, encouraging people to don the color in an effort to raise awareness about gun violence. (Sean Cotter/The York Dispatch.)

The mayor encouraged everyone to wear orange in accordance with a national campaign — now in its fourth year — against gun violence.

"The unfortunate occurrence of gun violence in our community must end," Bracey said.

During the news conference, the mayor said she knows there is no panacea for the issue of violence in York City; there's no one change that will end this "crisis in our community." So the city has to keep trying as many different approaches as it can.

"More can be done to save lives from gun violence," she said.

After the news conference, Bracey told The York Dispatch she had been in Washington, D.C., last week, meeting with other mayors and White House staff about the topic of gun violence. Bracey said mayors around the country somewhat regularly go to these meetings, and this one was more of an update than anything particularly new.

But, she said, in all these meetings, the cities exchange ideas, letting each other know what's been working for them in terms of cutting down on violence.

She said that right now, York City is considering taking a number of different approaches from other cities' playbooks, including the "Operation Ceasefire" strategy many believe was successful in bigger cities such as Boston and smaller ones such as High Point, South Carolina. Versions of the Ceasefire initiative have involved police working with academics and social workers to target gang activity and open-air drug markets.

Supporters: Clad in a shirt that read "Wear orange," Bracey was flanked at the news conference outside City Hall by York City Police Chief Wes Kahley, York City Councilwoman Sandie Walker, York County Commissioner Chris Reilly, York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King and state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City.

Kahley said the city has made strides over the past few years but still has a ways to go. The goal, he said, is to cut down on "gun violence and illegal guns while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners."

He said the current rate of violence is causing "the destruction of our young children and essentially a generation of kids."

King, of the DA's office, commended local law enforcement agencies on their efforts to reduce the violence, but he said some solutions have to come from beyond the police.

"This is a community problem, and it will take a community effort," he said.

Schreiber said much the same; he's on the PA Safe Caucus, a group of state legislators from both sides of the aisle that focuses on "common-sense solutions" for issues of violence around the state. Right now, he said, the main priority of the group is legislation to close what's sometimes called the "gun-show loophole," which allows people who aren't regular firearm dealers to sell long-barreled guns without requiring a background check.

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Schreiber also said a holistic approach is needed to take on the issues of violence in the city.

"Gun violence and drug abuse are inextricably linked," he said.

Schreiber said among the priorities of  Safe Caucus  are increasing mental-health treatment and getting police departments more resources.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.