Editorial | Guns on campus


Philadelphia should increase its efforts to stem gun violence




Philadelphia doesn’t have a stellar record when it comes to violent crimes. Its nickname of “Killadelphia” betrays the fact that it had the highest homicide rate of the top 10 most populous cities in the United States last year.

According to the Philadelphia Police Department, there have been 208 homicides in 2012 — 18 more than this time last year.

The Aurora, Colo., massacre gives a renewed sense of urgency over the role of firearms in American culture. Being situated near a hotbed for violent crimes, Penn students in particular have a big stake in the debate over gun control.

As Mayor Michael Nutter recently emphasized, Philadelphia needs to step up its efforts to stem the problem. While we commend increased measures that have already been put in place, stricter gun safety laws — including stringent background checks, waiting periods and mental health checks — must be an integral part of a program of reform.

Unfortunately for citizens of Philadelphia, legislation at the state level is poised to block any efforts from the local government. The state government, however, should reconsider its position. While gun ownership may be an important part of the lives of many rural Pennsylvanians, the state should not penalize the city for attempting to decrease the murder rate, as a bill in the state legislature proposes.

On campus, the Division of Public Safety should be praised for its maintenance of the campus as a relatively safe area in the city. The UPennAlert system, however, has been underutilized. Despite a spree of violent crime over the summer, no text messages have been sent to students alerting them of these crimes.

While the University is certainly entitled to use its discretion in sending out alerts, certain crimes — such as a July 6 rape near campus and a July 5 triple stabbing near the 40th Street SEPTA station — are serious enough to warrant an alert to the student body, even during the summer. Going forward, DPS should err on the side of sending out an alert.

Philadelphia has a long way to go before it breaks its “Killadelphia” moniker. The state, city and the University need to ensure that they do everything possible to keep people safe.

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