More than 20 years ago, Chantay Love lost her only brother Emir, 20, to gun violence. Out of that pain, her family formed Every Murder Is Real (EMIR), a non-profit to support and counsel other survivors.
Love is president of EMIR, one of many groups supporting the Victims of Gun Violence Act, including Concerned Black Men, March for Our Lives, Brady, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Newtown Action Alliance, CeaseFirePA, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Survivors Empowered.
The legislation was introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa. 3rd District, and in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Evans and Casey spoke about the legislation, along with Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, who has created a statewide initiative modeled on the legislation, on Friday at the office of Concerned Black Men in West Oak Lane.
“The senator and I saw the need for better coordination of resources for victims and survivors of gun violence,” Evans said. “When people are going through one of the worst times in their lives, they need help, not hurt.”
The legislation would create an advisory committee made up of stakeholders including federal agencies, support and service groups and survivors.
Davis chairs the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). The state Resources for Victims of Gun Violence initiative will be facilitated by the PCCD’s Victims Services Advisory Committee (VSAC).
VSAC will assess the needs of victims for medical and health insurance, finances, education, food support, housing, transportation, technology and accessibility. Then, it will disseminate the information and report to Gov. Josh Shapiro, Davis and other state officials about any gaps in resources.
“No matter where you live, whether it’s here in West Oak Lane or anywhere in Philadelphia, McKeesport, Pa., or anywhere in between every Pennsylvanian deserves to be safe and feel safe in their neighborhoods,” Davis said. “Our kids deserve to be safe walking to school, at a rec center or riding on a SEPTA bus. But now firearms are the No. 1 cause of death in Pennsylvania.”
Evans said the state initiative will show how federal legislation can help victims and survivors across this country.
“We want to thank Lt. Gov. Austin Davis for implementing this common-sense idea at the state level. Pennsylvania is taking the lead as a result of the lieutenant governor and the actions that he has taken,” Evans said.
“The only good news is that there are a lot of resources out there. The bad news is a lot of these survivors never have access to those resources and don’t know how to learn about them,” Casey said. “There is so much more to do to reduce gun violence in our country and we come back to this over and over again because of what is happening in the city of Philadelphia and the commonwealth.”
According to research by Casey’s office, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. survive gun-related violence each year. In 2023, more than 750 people in Philadelphia have been shot, including fatalities and survivors.
Both the state and federal initiatives would be funded by the Federal Byrne Crisis Intervention Program, which in February received more than $200 million from the U.S. Justice Department under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that can be used to fund violence-prevention programs.
In addition, the Shapiro-Davis budget would put more money into violence prevention.
“As we change the environment and we fix our communities and we stop violence from happening, we cannot allow you to forget those who have been harmed and those who have been impacted,” said Love, EMIR president. “Those people we cannot leave behind as we move forward in changing our city and changing our state.”
Untreated trauma perpetuates violence, Love said. If these programs had been in place, her group might not have had to drop more than 100 clients it was serving.
“Every incidence of gun violence shatters our feeling of safety in our community,” Davis said. “This is a Pennsylvania problem and an American problem. But it is a problem we can do something about. It’s not just about making investments, it’s about being smarter and innovative about those investments.”