Philadelphia’s epidemic of gun violence has left the police struggling to preserve public safety and government officials renewing efforts to tighten the state's gun control laws, sys the New York Times. Last year, there were 406 homicides, most of them by gunshot, the highest number in nine years. This year, the pace of the killings has worsened; as of Friday the death toll stood at 110, or 16 percent higher than at the same time last year. The rise in violence is evident at the University of Pennsylvania hospital, whose trauma unit treated 479 gunshot victims last year, a 15 percent increase over 2005.
Gun violence is becoming so common in some parts of the city that many people are no longer shocked by it, said Dr. Bill Schwab, chief of trauma and surgical critical care at the hospital. What sets Philadelphia apart from other cities is the combination of high poverty and a youth culture that increasingly settles minor disputes through violence and the easy availability of guns. Pennsylvania cities are barred by state law from enacting their own gun laws, and so must conform to the political will of a largely rural state that has a quarter of a million gun owners. Gun-control advocates want the state to limit handgun purchases to one per person per month in order to limit straw purchasers, who buy multiple guns on behalf of those who cannot legally acquire the guns because of criminal records.