North Philadelphia Schools Collaborate to Combat Gun Violence
17 guns were collected by the Philadelphia Police Department at a gun buyback event sponsored by St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, Gesu School, and Girard College on October 29.
Three historic schools in North Philadelphia have formed a new partnership to develop programming and enact change amidst the ongoing gun violence epidemic that is gripping Philadelphia and the nation. Leadership at Girard College, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, and Gesu School have pledged to combine efforts and resources to create safer communities for their students and neighbors.
As a first step in this partnership, the schools hosted a gun buyback event on October 29 outside St. Joseph’s Prep at 19th St. and Ridge Ave. The event was organized by longtime antiviolence activist Bilal Qayyum, the founder of the non-profit Father’s Day Rally Committee, supported by St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Old St. Joseph’s Parish, and facilitated in coordination with City Council of Philadelphia, the PA Office of Attorney General, and the Philadelphia Police Department.
“With this event and our schools’ growing partnership, we are demonstrating to our students and our neighbors that we care about them and stand with them in calling for an end to gun violence,” said Bryan Carter (Gesu School), John Marinacci (St. Joseph’s Prep) and F. Christopher Goins (Girard College) in a joint statement. “Children should feel safe at home, at school, and in their communities. Too many have experienced the trauma of gun violence, and it must stop. Working together, our schools will continue to develop programs for our students and engage with local legislators, religious leaders, and the people of North Philadelphia to enact meaningful change on this issue.”
Some critics claim that gun buyback events are not effective in reducing crime. In 2021, during 16 gun-buyback events in Philadelphia, 558 handguns and 188 long guns were turned in, none linked to a crime. As of October 27, there have been 1,570 nonfatal and 410 fatal shooting victims in the city of Philadelphia.
Still, activists like Bilal Qayyum of Father’s Day Rally Committee believe that buyback events save lives.
“Gun buybacks are one tool in the kit that we can use to promote gun safety and prevent unnecessary loss of life in our communities,” Qayyum said. “The types of weapons collected in this effort – including AK, AR, and .22 caliber rifles – have been used against law enforcement in recent incidents. Any unsecured weapon can accidentally hurt a child or be stolen and used in a crime. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”
At the buyback event on October 29, individuals anonymously turned in working firearms, no questions asked, and received either a $200 Visa gift card for a handgun or semiautomatic weapon or a $100 ShopRite gift card for a rifle. Police officers cleared and catalogued each gun, cross-checked them against the city’s stolen weapon database, and marked them for destruction.
“Today was a successful day for our communities,” said Carter, “but there is much work to be done. We will continue to educate our students in line with our values and create opportunities for them to become leaders on this issue.”