Philly woman takes to Facebook, street to fight gun violence

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Though Philadelphia is separated by more than 150 miles from Newtown, Conn., where a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday took 26 lives, the violence hit close to home.

Cecile Steinreide took to Facebook on Saturday, forming Philadelphians for Common Sense About Guns. “I thought of [Connecticut] and I thought of the daily massacre on our streets here,” she said. “Enough is enough.”

The group has not yet joined forces with any of the city’s existing gun violence advocacy groups – Steinreide said she felt compelled to act immediately after hearing the news.

“I was so upset [Saturday] morning, I decided to see if I could get people together,” she said.

Steinreide said the group operates absent a political agenda and hasn’t developed a package of proposed solutions, but wants to start a dialogue about what those should look like.

“It’s shouldn’t be a political issue,” she insisted. “People should be waking up to the fact that this is happening repeatedly – we’re killing more people in our own country than if you put two wars together. We need to have a discussion because obviously, this isn’t working.”

The fledgling organization demonstrated outside City Hall Sunday afternoon, standing on a median with signs reading, “Honk Against Gun Violence.”

Steinreide, eying the gray sky and steady drizzle, was worried no one would show. “I hope more people will come,” she said mournfully at the rally’s listed start date, when its only other participants were her husband and son.

“Please, just stand with us for a minute,” she begged to passersby as they crossed the street. “Say it’s enough!” Several stragglers grabbed hand-drawn signs – some of them drawn through social media, some merely drop-ins.

As Steinreide raised her poster board message, a chorus of honks rose, too, drowning out her pleas for participants. “This is something,” she said. “We have to start somewhere.”

Political pleas

Though Steinreide said she’s not treating the massacre as a political issue, many disagree. “We hope that [Friday’s] monstrous act of gun violence finally forces this nation’s leaders to make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement released Friday.

City Council President Darrell Clarke echoed his sentiments. “Words of condolence to all those parents who’ve lost a child are hollow and offensive if our leaders do not enact meaningful regulations of the deadly weapons that made this act of evil possible,” he said.

Advocacy group CeaseFirePA has asked its members to sign a national greeting card for the victims’ families, as well as a petition urging elected officials to act.

“This is a national tragedy,” executive director Shira Goodman said in a statement. “And our response must be to hold all of our leaders — local and national — accountable for putting a stop to gun violence.”

Too close to home

The massacre of 26 people – 20 of them first-graders – struck Steinreide particularly hard because her 10-year-old son’s elementary school was placed on lockdown last week following an unsubstantiated report of a possible shooter. “It happens way more often than we would like,” she said. “And way more often than we would think.”

Among the nation’s deadliest school shootings is the 2006 spree at the West Nickel Mines Amish School in which 10 elementary students were shot, five of them fatally. That happened in Lancaster County – about 50 miles from Philadelphia.


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