PHILLY DAILY NEWS | BY HALEY KMETZ | January 25, 2012
Pennsylvania ranked third among all 50 states in the murder rate of black residents in a study released Wednesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center.
Based on the latest FBI data, from 2009, the "Black Homicide Victimization Rate" was 28.30 per 100,000 - six times the national rate - and 85 percent were gunshot victims.
"You can't start talking about reducing the rate of homicide victimization, without talking about the role played by firearms," center executive director Josh Sugarmann, who co-authored the study, told the Daily News on Wednesday.
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Pennsylvania's rate of black homicides - ranking behind Missouri and Michigan - has been consistently higher than that of its neighboring states New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Sugarmann attributed that to Pennsylvania's lack of controls beyond federal firearm standards and the state's refusal to allow communities to enact their own firearms laws.
Max Nacheman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, said the financial influence of the National Rifle Association prevents state legislators from giving law-enforcement officials the tools to fight gun crime.
He said that most gun owners support firearms reform, but that such legislative efforts are not taken seriously by state lawmakers.
For J. Whyatt Mondesire, local NAACP president, the problem of black homicide victims has posed a significant challenge.
"I'm at my wit's end looking for solutions to this problem," said Mondesire, who has tried to reduce gun violence by speaking in Philadelphia schools.
Mondesire said that reaching black parents is an even more difficult, although necessary, task. "It starts in the home," he said. "There's a whole lot of parenting that's not going on."