Following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, Pittsburgh City officials have worked towards new gun laws in their city.
Black residents fear the new laws would make them more vulnerable to both racist and state-sanctioned violence while lending police another pretext to harass and incarcerate young black people.
A fear not far from reality in Pittsburgh.
In 2018, Pittsburgh rapper Jamal Knox came into legal trouble over his rap lyrics, which mentioned the use of Glock pistols and bullets. The lyrics by Knox, stage name Mayhem Mal, also stated, "Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good," and found Knox guilty of terroristic threats in a nonjury trial by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.
“You could do a house-by-house roundup, potentially under the law, of certain neighborhoods,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “That isn't the way we intended and that's certainly not what we will do through the administration of it.”
Though the new gun law bill will not be presented for voting until later this month, when first introduced in December there was limited formal discussion on if gun control ordinances would make black communities safer, or if they would make them more heavily targeted for police harassment.
“We didn’t start the fire, but we always get hit with the water hose,” said Claude Gray, co-founder of 1Hood Media, a Pittsburgh-based social justice organization. “We always end up catching the brunt of discipline for [things] we didn’t do. We have a God-given right to defend our liberty and families by any means necessary, like any other man.”
There is a long black history of gun control opposition supporting Gray's statement. When the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense marched on the California capitol building with rifles and shotguns in 1967, it was to protest a Republican introduced bill, meant to prohibit carrying loaded weapons in cities. The NRA at the time supported the bill.
This past January, hundreds of mostly white men and women stormed Pittsburgh’s City Hall building to protest the city’s proposed gun control ordinances — many of them held military-grade firearms. This time, the NRA supported gun rights advocates.
“I can understand how some would view it as why wasn't this done when the grandma sitting on her porch in the Hilltop community was killed several years ago,” Peduto said. “Or when a young man was killed in East Liberty afterschool on his way home, or most recently when an honors student was sitting in a house playing a video game in Homewood.”
The subject of gun reform and a change in gun laws have been widely debated, but with Pittsburgh's new supposed bill, the black community hopes for more consideration in the decision making process.
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