The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

March 15, 2013

Violence-Plagued Urban Neighborhood Feels Ignored in Gun Debate

(Continued)

Twenty-six people died in Sandy Hook Elementary. In the District's Sixth Police District, an area of fewer than 10 square miles that encompasses Capitol View, 19 lives were lost to gun violence last year and 55 people were wounded in shootings. The year before that, 22 people were killed and 35 were wounded. Eighty-eight lives were lost in the city last year, and the Sixth Police District consistently ranks first or second in the running homicide toll.

In the months after the Newtown tragedy, shock and grief have given way to a feeling of frustration here as gun laws are debated on Capitol Hill, just a few miles away yet also remote.

About 96 percent of the residents of Capitol View and the area around it are black. Nearly a quarter of the population is younger than 18, and almost half live in poverty, according to census figures. The median household income is $38,500, compared with $61,835 for the city overall. The unemployment rate is the second-highest among the city's wards, conservatively estimated at 11 percent, compared with 6.7 percent for the District as a whole.

The demographics of Capitol View and the surrounding community, especially the high poverty and unemployment rates, mirror those found in urban neighborhoods nationally where gun violence is prevalent. Fixing these and other problems will require more than a ban on assault weapons or more thorough background checks, crime experts and Capitol View residents say.

"Policymakers don't live in communities like ours," said Greg Stewart, a 46-year-old real estate agent who is the chairman of the area's neighborhood commission. "Their friends, their families, they live in suburbs. The community of Sandy Hook — that is more like a place they would live. They are removed from the inner city."

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Although the horror surrounding Newtown and other suburban massacres has dominated the conversation, cities have not been completely overlooked in the debate. Since the Connecticut shooting, President Barack Obama has brought up the everyday gun violence on street corners in Chicago and other cities repeatedly and made clear that it is a driving factor in White House decision making.

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