Philadelphia's 300th killing of 2022 took the life of Lameer Boyd, an 18-year-old father-to-be who was gunned down one July sidewalk. Over the days that followed, a grandmother was shot in the neck, a popular singer was killed in front of his house and a 26-year-old was shot during an argument outside a restaurant. With the death last week of a woman killed at a front-porch cookout, the 322nd of the year, the number of homicides in Philadelphia was on track toward becoming the highest in police records, reports the New York Times. More than 1,400 people in the city have been shot this year, a higher toll than in the much larger cities of New York or Los Angeles.
The crisis is concentrated in certain neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia, places that were left behind decades ago by redlining and other forms of discrimination and are now among the poorest parts of what is often called the poorest big U.S. city. Much of the gunfire has rung out on blocks of blighted rowhouses, vacant lots and iron-caged front porches. The city government has an array of efforts to address the crisis, including grants for community groups, violence intervention programs and earlier curfews. There seems to be no ready answer to the question of what to do about all the guns. “Everybody is armed,” said Jonathan Wilson of the Fathership Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has been helping to conduct a multicity survey of young people’s attitudes about gun culture. “Nobody’s without a gun in these ZIP codes, because they’ve always been dangerous.” Mayor Jim Kenney says authorities “keep taking guns off the street, and they’re simultaneously replaced almost immediately.” For every illegal gun seized by the police in Philadelphia between 1999 and 2019, about three more guns were bought or sold legally — and that was before a recent boom in gun ownership.