A new generation has grown accustomed to gun violence

Harper Leary

Science Leadership Academy

As cases of COVID-19 wane, there seems to be no end in sight to another pandemic in Philadelphia: gun violence.

Shootings across the city have led to the loss of hundreds of lives every year, leaving behind shattered families and communities to cope with the trauma and emotional and physical effects of what now has become a public health crisis. The city does an excellent job at physically saving shooting victims; more than 80% survive. But Philadelphia has proven not very good at treating their emotional needs.

Firearm homicides account for less than 2% of Philadelphia’s general deaths yet make up for 59% of deaths to Black males 15-34 years of age.

According to statistics from 2017, gun violence victims were highest among 15-24 year-olds in Philadelphia. The number of children and women that have been shot has recently skyrocketed. In 2016, 8% of shooting victims were women.

As of March 3, 2022, 12% of shooting victims have been women. With young people of color bearing the brunt of our city’s gun violence, emotional well-being has become a focus for those impacted.

Aylin Echandy, 16, of West Philadelphia, standing in front of a mural of Benjamin Franklin on the 500 block of Broad Street, in February. Echandy is wearing a sweatshirt remembering her friend Kaylin Johnson, who was killed in July 2021. (Harper Leary) 

Kaylin Johnson was a high schooler killed in a triple shooting on July 21 in West Philadelphia. Kaylin, who also went by KJ, was driving his car with three of his friends. One was also killed, and another was injured.

Aylin Echandy, a sophomore at Science Leadership Academy, went to elementary school with Kaylin. Only 16 when he was murdered, Johnson attended Boys Latin Charter School and was a “freak athlete” as Echandy put it.

KJ was his mother’s only child. “She’s still going through it,” Enchandy said, “You can never heal from it.” Murders like these show how numb we are even to the worst tragedies

Scott Charles has been a Trauma Outreach Manager at Temple University Hospital for over fifteen years. Charles, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, works to find innovative ways to prevent gun violence and work from an intervention standpoint when people get shot.

Essentially an emergency responder at the hospital for victims of violence, Charles sees the effects of gun violence on a city-wide level. He has viewed statistical trends over his time at the job and their causes.

“We can try to pretend [that] we can keep it [gun violence] isolated in South Philly or Southwest Philly or North Philly, but until you really address the root causes of violence… it’s going to spill over into those places where you once felt safe.” Charles said.

Over the past few years, individuals have been shot in neighborhoods that historically have a low level of gun violence. One reason for this is that expensive products are being targeted so they can be sold. An example of this is Rolex watches. These accessories are more likely to be found in certain parts of the city and therefore are targeted. Shootings in center city and more wealthy neighborhoods have become more common, which has not always been the case.

Scott Charles, who works at Temple University Hospital, is a Trauma Outreach Manager, working on innovative ways to prevent gun violence and being at an intervention when people are shot.

Deaths are often the primary focus of shootings because they are the most obvious. The mental aspect is not as obvious, even to those who weren’t the one shot. When wounded in war, individuals usually are immediately removed from that space, unlike when someone is shot in their city. If they recover from their injury, they are often sent back to the neighborhood where they were shot.

“The way that retraumatizes people is mind-boggling. Not only [will it] traumatize the victim, it will retraumatize the family members who have to walk outside and pass the location where one’s son was shot or killed,” Charles said.

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