With the nation still mourning one of the most tragic mass shootings in recent history, Philadelphia has a Trail of Tears of its own. You can’t turn on the news without noticing the increased level of gun violence that has erupted over the past two months. Whether it is a homicide or self-injury inflicted upon by a toddler, the death toll is embarrassing.
But how does one part of our city’s most vulnerable communities respond to this atrocity? Possibly with more guns. The Gun Range, located on 450 N. Percy St. in the Spring Garden area of North Philly, is petitioning to become a licensed firearms retailer.
But this out-of-touch desire from shooting range owner Yuri Zalzman isn’t random. The area where his current business lies is around the corner from what used to be Colosimo’s Gun Center. Colosimo’s, which was shut down in 2009 by the feds, was notorious for selling guns to illegal buyers. It would not be a far off assertion to suggest that much of the high gun activity that made Philadelphia once known as Killadelphia nationwide had a lot to do with that store.
One would think that folks would learn that this isn’t a smart idea, but money talks in a city of crime. On Wednesday, hearings to determine if the Gun Range would be approved began. If there was ever a time for a community to ban together to protect their streets, the time would be now.
“We cannot wait any longer to take action against gun violence, we need to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Lauren Footman, Atlantic Regional Organizer for the Generation Progress Gun Violence Prevention Network. “The opening of this firearm retailer will only set us backward.”
Footman, 24, has been mobilizing Philadelphians throughout the city to contact Council President Darrell Clarke, the councilman who represents the area where the Gun Range is located, to address the matter. Footman says Clarke previously released a statement around the time she helped stage a rally outside the range. Clarke's office has since said he didn't plan to say anything more about the business, unless he was ordered to testify by a judge.
That is a disservice to the community, plain and simple. Philadelphia is currently one of the poorest major cities in America plagued by gun violence. The Gun Range is currently located by Simpson Mid-Town senior housing which is less than 500 feet from the site. What in the hell is our city elected officials doing to speak out against this? Philadelphia’s Licenses & Inspections department has already denied the Gun Range the use of the site, but that’s still not enough.
I tried to stop by and speak to the owner of the range. There was no answer as the sounds of constant gun shots banged so loudly that I was afraid to enter the facility. As I waited for my ride to pick me up, I saw a mother across the street cover her small child’s ears. “We hear this every day,” she said. “Hopefully, I live long enough not to hear it no more.”
No taxpayer should ever have to endure that.