The Philadelphia Inquirer: Gun emergency or not, there are things we can do on our own to make neighborhoods safer | Jenice Armstrong

We can’t wait on the city to stop the bloodshed.

Each of us can do at least a little something to chip away at the problem.

I started thinking about the role that personal responsibility plays in fighting gun violence after seeing Adam McNeil, founder of SistaTalkPHL, interviewed on 6ABC earlier this week. He was talking about one of his organization’s board members who had been struck by gunfire while sitting on her stoop near 18th and Cumberland Streets.

McNeil, who in April received the Mayor’s Philly Hero Award, was visibly frustrated as he talked about Mayor Jim Kenney’s recent refusal to declare a gun violence emergency. Then, he pointed out, “We can’t just blame him. We can be angry but we all are responsible for this.” I watched that clip several times and thought to myself, McNeil has a point. We can’t just sit around and wait for Kenney and other elected officials to fix this mess.

Homicides are up 35% over last year. The reasons for the hike are systemic and complex and will take generations to fix.

But there are things that people can do right now to make their block a little safer.

For starters, get your young people in check. Don’t let them wander freely. Ensure that they have positive activities to keep them busy.

Declare a gun violence emergency in your own house. Secure your legal firearms and keep them well out of reach. Scour each room to ensure there are no illegal firearms stashed inside. Yes, go into your children’s bedrooms and make sure they’re not harboring any illegal weapons. Preventing illegal weapons from getting onto city streets goes a long way toward stopping the problem.

Shooters walk around neighborhoods every day and in many cases residents know who they are. If you know who one is, turn them in. If you’re nervous about possible retaliation, utilize police tip lines to report information anonymously. Email: or call 215-686-TIPS.

Lean hard on your officials. (Thank you Congressman Dwight Evans for your recent letter to Kenney, pressing him on the issue of gun violence.) Most elected officials don’t become really engaged until it’s an issue for them.

I wish Kenney had declared a citywide gun emergency as Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, activist Jamal Johnson, and others had asked. It would have sent a powerful message and been enormously useful from a psychological and public relations perspective. If nothing else, such a declaration would have sent a clear message that gun violence is a leading issue confronting the city and helped galvanize city leaders and residents. But Kenney’s stubbornness shouldn’t stop the rest of us from asking ourselves what it is that we can each do to make things better.

“There’s no excuse for anybody that lives in the city of Philadelphia unless they are mentally ill not to do something about this gun violence,” said Johnson, who heads up Stop Killing Us. “They can text [local elected officials]. They can write. Or they can call. Everybody can do something … physically they can come out on the streets and just walk around their own neighborhoods.

“It’s not our goal to confront these guys who are doing what they are doing,” he said. “But we can have a presence in our communities. Even after the shootings happen, what do we do? People lock up in their houses. You go out there, it looks like a desert. Nobody’s out on the street now because of the shooting that just happened. It should be the opposite. People should be out in droves. They should be protesting against this gun violence.”

Just like we do when there’s a bad police shooting.