EDITORIAL: Public help needed to curb gun violence

York Dispatch

York City has a gun problem.

We see it in the headlines. We see it on the streets. And we see it in the faces of too many of our neighbors who have been touched personally by what can accurately be termed a public health crisis.

The month of September may have brought the end of summer and cooler temperatures, but it did little to cool off the ongoing incidents of York residents being frightened, threatened, wounded and killed at the barrel of firearms.

Over the course of just one week last month, there were five shootings on the streets of York, several involving teenagers. A teenager was seriously wounded by gunfire on Sept. 3, a 12-year-old was shot in the side on Sept. 9, a 17-year-old was shot in the foot and a 34-year-old was shot in the arm in separate incidents on Sept. 10, and an 18-year-old was shot in the foot on Sept. 11.

That doesn’t include other shootings last month, including that of a Springettsbury Twp. man on North Franklin Street in broad daylight on Sept. 29.

More:'All this gun violence needs to stop': Mother of shooting victim speaks out

None of these incidents resulted in fatalities. But that wouldn’t be the case on Sept. 26, when two people, including 15-year-old Dezmen Jones, were killed by gunfire.

Two teens — aged 17 and 19 — have been charged in the Sept. 9 shooting of the 12-year-old, in which police say they were targeting a different victim.

And the 18-year-old accused in the Sept. 3 shooting — in which the teenage victim pulled his own gun in an attempt to fire back, police say — was himself wounded in a July 29 quadruple shooting.

What’s going on? Why are York’s teenagers seemingly armed to the teeth?

The words of 15-year-old Dezmen Jones’ mother, Kecia Hill, need to be broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the city: “All this gun violence just needs to stop,” she said, while mourning her son. “It’s destroying our futures and our children’s futures.”

It is doing exactly that. And, as Ms. Hill says, it needs to cease. But that won’t happen unless the residents of York — the very citizens too often caught in the crossfire — raise their voices.

Clearly, there are many factors contributing to the persistent gun violence plaguing York, from rampant drug abuse to woeful gang activity. But one component too often overlooked is a public that’s reticent to turn in illegal gun owners — especially those that are underage.

And make no mistake; that’s who’s often pulling the trigger. In fact, if you know anyone under the age of 21 in possession of a handgun, odds are they are not its legal owner. The authorities need to be informed.

Just as witnesses to shootings must come forward to help police solve these violent and all-too-common attacks involving guns, those who are aware of illegal arms must raise the alarm — perhaps preventing shootings in the first place.

It’s not hard, and it needn’t be done publicly. Anyone with information about gun violence in York is asked to text “Yorktips” and their information to 847-411. The texting service is anonymous.

People with information also can call the York City Police Department at 717-846-1234 or download the York City PD app on their smartphones.

Until we take the guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, York will continue to see senseless violence destroy “our futures and our children’s futures.”