Last night the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network received commitments from elected officials and government hopefuls at its 2013 Public Action meeting. In front of an audience of approximately 200 at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland, officials from the state, county and city pledged to address issues such as gun violence, education, public transit, jobs and clean rivers.
“Let us reach out and make Pittsburgh not just the most livable city, but the most lovable city,” said Rev. Maureen Cross-Bolden of St. James AME Church, a member of PIIN, which includes nearly 50 congregations and organizations.
In his remarks to the audience, mayor-elect, Bill Peduto used the architecture of the Rodef Shalom building to highlight the interconnectedness of the issues being discussed.
“When we’re talking about theses pledges today, understand they all connect, just like the tiles in these mosaics,” he said.
Nowhere was this interconnectedness more present than in the issue of gun violence which speakers said was exacerbated by increased unemployment and a struggling education system. More than half of the audience stood when asked how many had known someone killed as a result of gun violence.
“All of these issues you’re fighting for are important, especially as it relates to violence because violence needs a holistic approach,” said state Rep. Jake Wheatley.
The state representatives were asked to tackle gun violence head on by proposing legislation to ensure background checks are required statewide on all gun sales. They were also asked to sponsor statewide lost- and stolen-gun legislation, similar to what was passed in Pittsburgh ,whereby gun owners are fined if they do not report when their firearms are lost or stolen.
“The Republican party, the NRA says [gun control] doesn’t make a difference,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey. “My response to them is, ‘If it doesn’t make a difference, do it.’”
As mayor, Peduto said he will enforce the city’s lost- and stolen-gun legislation as soon as he takes office. City councilors Bruce Kraus and Rev. Ricky Burgess pledged to reallocate resources to increase police presence in high-crime areas.
“I am here to affirm my commitment to you,” Kraus said. “I am your friend and your ally in stopping this cancer that is gun violence.”