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Violence ‘now part of the American way,’ says archbishop after shootings

A shooting rampage late on 16th September that left a West Philadelphia resident and the shooter dead, plus two police officers and three civilians wounded, drew a strong response from the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

“Combine easy access to guns with a culture that breeds resentment, self-focus, personal license and contempt for human life and the law, and what you get is what happened over the past weekend: the terrible shootings of innocent people by Nicholas Glenn and others,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said on 19th September.

The Philadelphia Police Department said Glenn, 25, was armed with a single semiautomatic handgun and several clips of ammunition when he went on a shooting spree as he walked calmly through a West Philadelphia neighbourhood that Friday night.

He shot Philadelphia Police Sgt Sylvia Young six times, but she survived thanks to her bulletproof vest. Then apparently at random, Glenn shot and wounded two people in a neighbourhood bar then shot a couple sitting in their car, one of whom, identified as 25-year-old Sara Salih, died from her injuries.

Pursued by numerous officers, Glenn retreated to an alley where he exchanged gunfire, wounding University of Pennsylvania security officer Eddie Miller. Glenn was killed in the exchange.

Archbishop Chaput in his statement condemned the ease with which residents can acquire guns, but pointed to deeper issues at work in such incidents of violence.

“Taking away the guns – making them far more difficult to acquire – is the easy part, but it doesn’t begin to address the deeper moral and social dysfunctions of American urban life,” the archbishop said. “Violence begins in the heart before the hand picks up a weapon. Violence is now part of the American way from womb to tomb, and it should surprise no one when it hits home locally.”

While Miller reportedly has been released from the hospital, the other survivors of the attack remain hospitalised in stable condition.

“I ask Catholics across the archdiocese to pray in the coming days for the victims of the weekend shootings and their families, and for leaders who can bring genuine peace to our community,” Archbishop Chaput said.

The incident was one chapter of a violent weekend across Philadelphia in which there were 18 shootings, but no additional fatalities, spanning the afternoon of 16th September to the evening of 18th September.

Gun violence has become no surprise to city residents in areas such as West and North Philadelphia.

According to statistics from the Philadelphia Police Department, there were 203 homicides in the city up to 17th September, up eight per cent from that date last year.

The department’s statistics confirm two observations from the recent weekend’s shootings: Most homicides result from gunfire and some 10 times that number are injured in gun assaults in the city in a given year.

Of the 280 homicides reported in 2015, most were committed with a gun, judging by the complete statistics from 2014; 206 of the 248 homicides that year were by gunshot.

Meanwhile, most of the incidents of gunfire on the city’s streets – there were 2,264 aggravated assaults from gunfire in 2015 – result in physical and psychological wounds that only the victims, their families and their neighbours will see.

Picture: Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia speaks during the annual fall meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore on 10th November 2014. (CNS photo/Bob Roller).