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Squirrel Hill synagogue hosts forum on gun violence

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:10 a.m.

Holding gun owners responsible for reporting lost and stolen weapons, instituting universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were among the recommendations offered as solutions to gun violence during a forum in Squirrel Hill on Monday night.

“Stop the Killing — A Forum on Ending Gun Violence” drew nearly 150 people to the Temple Sinai synagogue.

Richard Carrington, executive director of the community group Voices Against Violence, used his personal experiences to help illustrate the toll gun violence has had on the community.

“Since 2000, I have been to 164 funerals of young black men that I have known personally,” Carrington said. “Of the 164 funerals ... not one of those young men was killed with a legal gun. They were not able to track it back to anyone and not able to verify where those guns came from.”

Dr. Jennifer Wolford of the Child Advocacy Center at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville discussed the enormity of the problem, saying that about 17,000 children suffer nonfatal gun wounds each year, according to the Children's Defense Fund.

Wolford cited 2009 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found 2,251 children — six each day — died from gun violence in the United States.

Her personal encounters with children who were victims of gun violence include treating a 3-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the face with a handgun in the home of a baby-sitter, and a 9-year-old boy who was accidentally shot in the abdomen when his 17-year-old brother removed a handgun from his waistband.

Kerry O'Donnell, president of the Falk Foundation, which has been studying incidences of gun violence, made a case for enacting laws that hold gun owners responsible for properly securing their weapons by noting that many gun deaths occur with weapons that are easily accessible to children or are stolen from homes and cars.

“We believe that the silver bullet here is to hold gun owners more responsible,” she said.

Several public officials, including state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, city Councilmen Bill Peduto and Bruce Kraus and city Controller Michael Lamb, were on hand to outline efforts at the state and local level to address gun violence.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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