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Counterpoint: Gun Violence Is an Important Issue, but Not the Most Important

For another point of view please see Point: Gun Control Should be a Winning Issue in November

Less than a month before the 2022 midterm elections, most polls show that the No. 1 issue for likely voters is, as Democratic strategist James Carville famously quipped 30 years ago, “the economy, stupid.”

According to Morning Consult, as of Oct. 1, 77 percent of likely voters identify the economy as their top issue, followed by education (54 percent), gun violence (53 percent), and immigration and abortion (both at 51 percent).

Of course, this does not mean that crime and gun violence (and other societal problems) will not enter voters’ minds when they head to the voting booth this fall.

In 1992, the economy was in a recession, which is why Carville, advising then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton, assumed (correctly) that the economy would be the paramount issue.

In 2022, the economy will be in a recession again. However, unlike in 1992, the current recession also includes the worst inflation rate in more than 40 years. As of this writing, the rate of inflation remains stubbornly high at 8.3 percent. In 1992, inflation hovered around 3 percent.

In general, the economy is facing several problems causing major concern for voters. Wages are not keeping pace with inflation, which means living standards are declining. More than 11 million jobs remain unfilled. Interest rates are rising, making homes and cars considerably more expensive. The stock market is in free fall. Supply chains stay in flux. And, with winter approaching, Americans are preparing to face sky-high home heating bills.

Make no mistake, the vast majority of Americans are worse off today than they were a few years ago. If history is any indicator, their vote will hinge mostly on this issue.

In 1992, violent crime was also a massive problem. As the Clinton White House describes, “America’s families and communities faced serious crime problems in 1992. More violent crimes were reported in 1992 than ever before, with nearly 2 million murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults occurring in the United States. Gun crime had skyrocketed to the highest point in 20 years with more than half a million total gun crimes reported.”

In 2022, the country faces a similar crisis, as crime is increasing throughout the country. However, for whatever reason, when voters cast their ballots, they tend to prioritize the economy above all else, especially when they sense that the economic prospects of their children are in peril.

Perhaps this is because voters are constantly aware of how a poor economy affects their lives. Every time Americans pass a gas station, they are reminded that they are coughing up more and more money to fill up their tanks.

Voters also receive daily reminders about persistently high inflation whenever they go to the grocery store or purchase practically anything.

In other words, the vast majority of voters experience the hardships of a poor economy virtually every day. They can’t escape inflation and other economic problems.

On the other hand, more esoteric issues like gun violence are not something most Americans encounter daily, therefore it is likely these types of issues do not resonate as much with the vast majority of voters.

Although voters are aware that gun violence and crime are certainly a big problem, because most do not face the problem head-on daily, it makes sense that they would compartmentalize such issues as important in general but probably not highly relevant to their individual life circumstances.

Crime and gun violence tend to be worst in limited areas, most notably in inner cities, which means most voters can avoid this problem by avoiding the specific places where crime is most rampant. Such is why Americans are fleeing crime-ridden cities in droves.

Yet, inflation and a stagnant economy is a national phenomenon that occurs everywhere, affects everyone and causes chronic stress.

This Election Day, as was the case in 1992 and countless other elections, it’s still the economy, stupid.

 

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GALLUCH: Safe Streets Require Leadership Changes

Imagine for a moment that you are done shopping and walking back to your car. You get there, hands full of shopping bags. You fumble for your keys to unlock your car. As you unlock it and get in, two men jump in with you. One gets in the front seat and the other in the back. The man in the backseat puts a gun to your head.

Now stop imagining. That happened last Monday night in the parking lot of a Target in Wayne to a teenage resident of Radnor Township at approximately 5:30 p.m. Fortunately he was not harmed. But the car was stolen and found running in West Philly. The perpetrators have yet to be apprehended.

Anyone can be a victim of crime in the Philadelphia area. Earlier this month on September 8th and September 11th, armed carjackings took place in Upper Darby, both targeting women. Furthermore, just last week three robberies occurred in Haverford between Thursday and Friday evening.

This all begs the question – what is being done? The answer: Nothing.

Nothing will be done as long as we continue to elect people like U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner who support defunding the police and openly admit they do not believe that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession is a viable strategy to reduce shootings.

Those soft-on-crime policies have enabled lawbreakers and made our communities and families less safe. Public safety is the good upon which all others rest. As congressman, combating violent crime will be one of my top priorities.

It starts with protecting and supporting our police, law enforcement, and first responders. Fully funding them and equipping them with the resources they need to serve the public should not be a partisan issue. Unlike Mary Gay Scanlon, I will always oppose defunding the police, irrespective of how it polls.

I oppose DA Larry Krasner’s failure to aggressively prosecute violent offenders. I disagree with his contention that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession will not reduce shootings.

Furthermore, I will never endorse policies like the elimination of cash bail, as DA Larry Krasner and Mary Gay Scanlon have, that will lead to rising crime. Second, it is imperative that we hold violent and repeat offenders accountable – the opposite of what DA Larry Krasner has done and Mary Gay Scanlon have demanded.

This year alone, Philadelphia is on pace for 3,000 illegal gun arrests. Those caught are less likely to be charged and those charged are less likely to be convicted than ever before. In 2021, there were over 2,300 incidents of gun violence, yet 61 percent of illegal firearms cases were dismissed by the district attorney’s office.

Third, I am committed to making the much-needed enhancements to our law enforcement community to be better equipped to process evidence and convict offenders.

One solution is mobile crime labs. Oftentimes, families in PA-05 are left waiting while evidence sits and while a loved one’s killer goes free. By bringing a forensics team to a crime scene, evidence is processed more quickly and there is a greater likelihood of tying an offender to the crime within an optimal 48-hour window. Speedy, accurate processing of evidence leads to more solved crimes and fewer violent offenders on the street.

In addition, the presence of mobile crime labs acts as a visible deterrent. Their physical presence in communities will make criminals think twice about committing crimes. A greater chance that someone is linked to a crime also acts as a deterrent – current backlogs give criminals the idea that they will never be convicted. Last, resources for youth intervention and mentorship programs are essential. Strengthening the relationships that law enforcement have with the community ensures that families will be safe and that the rule of law will be enforced in a just way. These relationships can be maintained without denigrating the men and women that keep our communities safe.

We can and must find ways to work together to make our streets safe again. It is time to stop emboldening criminals and start protecting innocent people. As long as violent and repeat offenders go without consequences, innocent people across PA-05 in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will continue to suffer. The crime and violence we are experiencing are simply not acceptable and stopping it will be a top priority of mine in Congress.

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Sowing the Seeds of Peace One Relationship at a Time

From a press release

Making peace comes from relationships.

On September 14thNorristown Fire Department Chief Thomas O’Donnell and Urban Navigation Founder Don Jackson met at the Montgomery Hose Fire Station. The meeting was held to discuss the violence happening throughout Montgomery County and Philadelphia that has taken the lives of so many young people and what can be done to help. They also brainstormed ideas on how to get more youth involved with Urban Navigation and local fire departments.

“I understand completely about the violence plus crime crisis happening throughout our county and our City of Philadelphia. Hopefully, it gets better in the future,”  O’Donnell said.

Urban Navigation provides experiences and training with the youth. Technical skills, entrepreneurial mentorship, life skills training, additionally providing mentorship and guidance to ATV/dirt bike riders.

Experiences through Urban Navigation are going on to local streets giving information to all youth about their lives not being in jeopardy. Showcasing youth with no guns or criminal activity actions being involved. Training and mentorship can  also be provided at  Billy Penn Studios.

This studio accommodates a platform for creative minds. Such as having podcasts, office space, media music studio, virtual reality facility, or rest area. The purpose of Urban Navigation is for people who want to make changes. Urban Navigation is a haven for all youth no matter the gender.

The mission of the Norristown Fire Department is to save lives and protect property through prevention, preparedness, education and response. The department also has a Junior Firefighter Program. The program allows young men and women to become firefighters at the age of 16. The department welcomes those of all ages that are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or who are willing to assist with administrative duties.

“The meeting was a productive meeting, mainly trying to compare all the issues that happen in Norristown and Philadelphia. Outcome is that all counties can benefit from Urban Navigation. Firefighters and the youth should collaborate more often. Either through school visitation or at events. The big picture is that the youth would appreciate the outreach in the long haul,” said Jackson.

“Having the Fire Department involved with youth is a good thing. Firefighters can bring a different perspective plus approach for community outreach. When I see firefighters and youth engaging with one another at events it is a good time. Fire Departments and Police Departments together as one unit have an even stronger impact to leave a positive impression on our youth” said Alim Howell,  Urban Navigation liaison.

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Conshohocken-Based ZeroEyes Watches Out for Guns in Schools

No parent can completely dismiss the possibility of their child’s school being the scene of a shooting incident. The tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas still reverberates.

Various theories have been espoused on how to curtail mass shootings. Sam Alaimo has put his theories into practice.

Alaimo is the founder and chief financial officer of ZeroEyes, a Conshohocken-based security firm that has developed technology designed to detect the presence of a gun, minimize the risk of a mass shooting and keep children safe using AI (artificial intelligence). The company is the only creator of the only A.I.-based gun detection video analytics platform that holds the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act Designation.

Alaimo, a former Navy SEAL, helped launch the company in 2018 as an effort to protect children and their teachers.

Sam Alaimo

“I met our CEO, Mike Lahiff, on a SEAL team over a decade ago,” Alaimo recalls. “He was at his daughter’s school in 2018 after the Parkland shooting and he noticed all the physical security cameras there that were not proactive. They just sat there and did nothing.”

Alaimo, Lahiff, and their colleagues spent two years developing a system that would detect guns more efficiently than existing technology while still being cost-effective. The process included a rigorous testing protocol.

“We brought in cameras,” Alaimo said. “We used different angles different lighting conditions, different guns, different hand sizes, every different variable we could think of. That ended up being the unique difference between us and the other companies.”

That is one element of the ZeroEyes system. Then there is the human element; a team of observers who monitor and analyze the information provided by the system of cameras.

To protect clients’ privacy and the disclosure of confidential information, the analysts do not watch live video streams.

“The analyst is looking at a blank screen,” Alaimo said. ”The only time an image is seen on that screen is when a gun has been identified as either a true analysis or a false positive.”

That observers have backgrounds in the military or as first responders, and their professional knowledge is essential for the ZeroEyes system to operate at maximum efficiency.

“Our goal,” Alaimo says, “and what makes the software unique, is that when a gun is exposed in front of a security camera, within three to five seconds that alert will be sent to the first responders or the client. It goes from the camera to our ZeroEyes operating center in Conshohocken to the client.

“To be that quick, we need people who are very comfortable identifying guns and very calm under pressure.”

Alaimo and his team envisioned their system as something that would be used primarily in schools. But by the time it was officially unveiled in 2020, many schools had resorted to virtual education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had a lot of initial interest,” Alaimo recalls. “Then COVID-19 happened.”

To keep the company afloat, the system was marketed to governmental and commercial entities as well as educational institutions.

Today, Alaimo says ZeroEyes technology has been introduced in 25 states, with clients from the education sector in 19 of them. And the company’s reach is expanding.

“By the end of the year we should be in well over 40 (states),” he says.

In the wake of school shootings of recent years, Alaimo says the company is receiving an increasing number of inquiries.

“The interest has grown exponentially,” he said. “It seems that the COVID-19 issue, the lockdowns, the mental health (issues), resulting from that is causing an increase in shootings. I’m not sure what the cause is but the timeline is the last two years is getting much worse.”

And the company recently announced a partnership with robotics company Asylon to expand into drones. It will integrate ZeroEyes’ human-verified A.I. gun detection software with Asylon’s aerial drone and robot dog video feeds, providing end users with an autonomous response capability in active shooter situations.

“Our grandparents and parents had nuclear attack drills from foreign threats, and we adults had fire drills growing up. Our children today have active shooter drills–things aren’t heading in the right direction,” said Mike Lahiff, CEO of ZeroEyes. “Enabling our A.I. gun detection technology for use beyond static video cameras is a huge step in combating the mass shooting epidemic that our country faces. Our partnership with Asylon Robotics means we’re able to outfit unmanned vehicles with real-time gun detection intel and tools such as lights and audible alarms to distract shooters, giving first responders time to respond to threats more quickly and safely from the air or on the ground, when every second counts.”

Alaimo emphasizes he and his company are not taking a position on the thorny issue of gun control.

“We created a solution for right now,” he said. “That solution is to detect guns and stop the next mass shooting.”

 

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