By Dustin Slaughter
“I’m here today because we’ve got to bring attention. Constantly and consistently bring attention to this issue of gun violence,” Dorothy Johnson-Speight told me on a very hot and humid Tuesday morning in Logan Square, on the second day of the Democratic National Convention.
Family, friends and local and national politicians gathered in Logan Circle yesterday to speak out about one of America’s persistent public health crises – gun violence – and to memorialize the lives lost to it. ‘Igniting the Vocal Majority: A Rally to Demand Gun Violence Prevention’. The event was organized by Americans for Responsible Gun Solutions, Cease Fire PA, and others.
Johnson-Speight, founder and executive director of gun victims advocacy group Mothers in Charge, did not willingly find herself in the position of leader and advocate for common sense gun laws, however. The murder of her son, Khaaliq Jabar-Johnson, over a decade ago spurred her to action. Jabar-Johnson, a social worker and counselor, was shot seven times. She described him as “a peace maker”.
“They’ve got to pass common sense gun laws,” Dorothy Johnson-Speight tells me. “I find it very hard to wrap my mind around why, if a gun is lost or stolen, you don’t want to report it. Those guns end up in North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
The same people, she said, who killed her son in cold blood. Johnson-Speight also wants universal background checks, a reform that would go a long way towards preventing the immense pain and loss she’s felt since Jabar-Johnson’s passing, she adds.
In Philadelphia, there have been approximately 612 shootings this year alone, up from 551 the same time last year, Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas reported earlier this month.
Bills such HB 1020, that groups including Cease Fire PA are advocating for, would create a statewide law requiring people and businesses to report stolen guns to police. Late last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down an NRA-backed bill that allowed individuals and special interest groups to sue locales for passing ordinances requiring such measures.
“I think it a shame and disgrace for the NRA to have so much influence over some members of Congress,” Representative John Lewis told The Declaration. “The American people are with us. 85 to 90 percent. Democrats and Republicans want us to do something about gun violence. The tide has changed,” he added.
Representative Lewis feels confident that should the Democrats win back both houses of Congress in November, legislation can be passed on universal background checks and other measures aimed at stemming American gun violence.
“Hurting souls going to the polls. Look for us in November,” the mother of Khaaliq Jabar-Johnson promised.