Philadelphia’s Growing Issue: A Culture of Violence

<p>Signs held by students at State Capitol, Harrisburg, PA | (Kasey Shamis/Bullhorn Photographer)<br/><br/><br/><br/></p>

Signs held by students at State Capitol, Harrisburg, PA | (Kasey Shamis/Bullhorn Photographer)

On September 27, one student was killed and four were injured after an organized gun plot following a football scrimmage. The death of a 14-year-old football player, Nicolas Elizalde, near Roxborough High School has forced safety organizations and school districts to reexamine Philadelphia’s rising issue of gun violence. 

In a news conference on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Police sent a report stating that murder charges have been filed against a 16-year-old suspect who possessed a firearm during the attack. More suspects continue to surface as the victim’s family, as well as others who were traumatized by the horrific event, struggle to acquire justice for their children. 

Police and investigators have noted that the motive for the shooting is unclear and are unsure as to whether or not the organized murder is connected to other shootings in the past. Law enforcement has indicated that the shooting may also be connected to other homicides that occurred in West Philadelphia. They have indicated that Dayron Burney-Thorn, 16, is actively wanted for murder, criminal conspiracy and numerous other arrest warrants for these homicides including the Roxborough shooting. 

Philadelphia police are also looking towards five other suspects as accomplices in the shooting. With the $45,000 reward being offered for Burney Thorn’s arrest, the police are taking great strides to find the culprit. 

However, catching this one suspect does not come close to answering the question of Philadelphia’s growing firearm related violence. Can justice really be served for the victims’ families when gun violence has remained prevalent in Philadelphia for centuries? 

During the summer, I had the chance to work with PAYouthVote and build a campaign to fight gun violence with 30+ other public high school students in Philadelphia. We received news coverage from CBS and WHYY to co-led press conferences at PA State Capitol on gun violence. 

Sevinch Rakhmonova

Pictured: Sevinch Rakhmonova speaking at the gun violence rally at the State Capitol, Harrisburg, PA

My experiences with community organizing and voter registration have allowed me to learn more about the deeper injustices that plague our city. Hence, coming across the Roxborough shooting on the news reminded me of yet another example of the consequences of gun abuse. It further fueled my anger for Philly’s growing violence problem that legislators have made no effort to restrict gun access. 

When gun violence primarily affects Black and Hispanic residents at disproportionate rates, local leaders have turned a blind eye to the death statistics. Has gun violence become the new status quo?

This horrific shooting serves as an example of the consequences that exist within a society that ignores its systemic problems. The need for guns shines light on a substantial gap between those who are in power and those who experience homelessness and and poverty. 

Confronting gun violence means to hold our state legislators and city leaders accountable for their lack of concern over the growing homicide rate. To hold them accountable is to demand them for more funding distributions to Philadelphia residents, and to demand heavier restrictions on firearms through protesting and voting. 

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Nicolas Elizalde’s death is more than just a statistic – it’s a significant historical event that should become a pivotal point for us to reexamine the prejudices that enclose the “City of Brotherly Love.”


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