While New York City celebrates established Independence Day traditions like hot dog eating contests and East River fireworks, shootings are becoming all too common—and expected—each Fourth of July. What’s meant as a four-day stretch of summer fun and relaxation now coincides with an extended period of elevated tragedy and fear for Black and brown communities traditionally plagued by gun violence. 

Eleven people got shot across New York City on July 4th night. Across the river, five people were shot in Patterson, New Jersey; two died. Baltimore and Philadelphia were the scenes of mass shootings this past weekend, too, where five and two people died, respectively, and dozens injured.

A.T. Mitchell, appointed the NYC Gun Violence Prevention Czar by Mayor Eric Adams,

“Unfortunately, the ugly disease of gun violence has raised its head this summer weekend.

Those of us who are in the cure violence movement focus on the 100 days of summer. I pray for rain for those days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The activists and gun violence prevention organizations know that around holidays increased violence happens. We pray for rain. This weekend began stormy, that keeps people indoors. People don’t congregate. So we pray for rain.”

The NYPD reported a pair of fatal shootings during the holiday: an 18-year-old man was killed in the Bronx’s Fordham Heights neighborhood, while a 30-year-old man was killed in Inwood. Their names remain anonymous as the families still needed to be notified as of press time. 

Between Saturday and Sunday, seven people were injured in the Bronx in a pair of separate shootings. The incidents are reportedly non-fatal as of press time, although multiple victims were critically wounded. One in the Mt. Hope neighborhood was officially considered a “mass shooting” by the Gun Violence Archive due to the four victims—including a 12-year-old girl—which is the qualifying threshold, even if there are no deaths. As of last week, over 30% of citywide shootings take place in the Bronx. 

“Violent weekend in NYC, where children, young people, and females have been victims of multiple shootings,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. “New Yorkers deserve better, and we will continue working together to protect our city from violent individuals who are armed and have no regard for human life.”

The NYPD did not officially report a homicide this past weekend. But a 15-year-old boy was killed at Harlem’s Riverbank State Park on Sunday and a department spokesperson tallied it as a citywide incident despite it taking place outside NYPD jurisdiction and under that of the New York State Police. 

A five-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet on the Friday preceding the holiday weekend, reportedly around a vigil for the victim of another shooting that occurred earlier in the week. The incident also occurred in the Bronx. 

“When the sun comes, we know the guns come out,” Councilman Charles Barron told the Amsterdam News. “No amount of police on the streets is really addressing this killer issue. The violence will not stop, until Mayor Eric Adams deals with poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and mental health.

“This level of violence is unacceptable. The bloated $11 billion police budget should be redistributed to dealing with social services. Any reported reduction has no real impact to make our community safer. The mayor has to get to the root cause of crimes. We need job creation, jobs not jails. We need an extensive budget for public safety, not an $107 billion dollar budget that cuts vital services.”

Decades-long East New York community advocate Andre Mitchell, the co-founder of Man Up (founded after the 2003 gun death of 8-year-old Daesean Hill), told the AmNews, “These are real issues that we address everyday, but we all can not be everywhere at the right place and time to avoid all this gun violence.”

Mitchell concluded, “It just sheds more light on the need for more resources to address the issue. We are focusing on violence prevention, and we need people to take advantage of resources that are being made by the Adams’ administration, such as job training, summer jobs, [and] the activities that are being made available throughout the summer. We have to continue to build in those communities where the issue is most prevalent.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was equally disturbed by the summertime gun violence.

“In New York and nationally, summer holiday weekends have become tragically synonymous with increases in gun violence,” he said. “Shootings across the five boroughs—including one that struck a 5 year old and another that killed a 15 year old—compound with mass shootings like we saw in Baltimore. Violence rates may be decreasing generally in New York City, but those trends mean nothing to people grieving tragedy. 

“The expectation of gun violence cannot lead to its normalization. Instead, it must spur us to provide additional preventative resources, on these days and year round. The Fourth of July is taken as a day to recognize America—and we should recognize it as a call to address the uniquely American tragedy of gun violence.”

The Baltimore incident Williams referred to involved a block party shooting this past Sunday where 30 people were shot. Two victims, Black young adults aged 18 and 20, died. The tragedy points to general nationwide trends of more shootings during Fourth of July exacerbated by the proliferation of illegal guns and elevated violence in under-resourced zip codes. 

“During a community block party, a time when a neighborhood comes together to celebrate solidarity, precious lives have been lost, countless have been injured, and an entire community has been put at risk,” added Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “We cannot stand to wait any longer to act. I am calling on Congress to pass meaningful legislation that will make our communities safer.”

Nationwide, gun violence is not only the new normal each Fourth of July, but mass shootings and mass killings on Independence Day seem routine. In Philadelphia, five people were killed. In Fort Worth, Texas, three people were killed. This comes while the nation remains reeling from a mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, where seven people were fatally shot. 

“Today, Jill and I grieve for those who have lost their lives and, as our nation celebrates Independence Day, we pray for the day when our communities will be free from gun violence,” said President Joe Biden in his statement. 

Acting NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban inherited the unenviable task of overseeing the city’s Fourth of July gun violence prevention playbook with the departure of former top cop Keechant Sewell. On Monday, he promised increased security measures and police presence during the holiday celebrations. 

But while Caban promised a safe and joyful Macy’s fireworks display, there remains the issue of elevated citywide gun violence in neighborhoods already regularly impacted by it. Last year, more than 50 New Yorkers were victims of city gun violence during the Fourth of July weekend. “There are too many guns in the wrong hands, and the city has not been able to get a grip of what is going on in [the] city,” said community activist Daniel Goodine and co-founder of Men Elevating Leadership.

Goodine, an AmNews photo-journalist added,“These gun buybacks are not getting to the people they say [they] want to target. Those people are not giving up their weapon, or they are giving it up to get money for another one.

We just sat down with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and some cure violence organizations, but we have to assess the nature of a man with a gun. Other communities are training their children at weekends how to shoot weapons. Perhaps we, too, need to show our young people how to respect the gun. When we were young and we went down South, that was our training. We were taught that you don’t shoot your friends or hurt your community.

There is no respect for the gun. You don’t pull a weapon unless you want to use it, but you can use it to back someone down, and everybody goes home.”

Instead, said Goodine, who lost a son and many Brownsville community members to gun violence. “This July 4th weekend, there are mass shootings all over the country. But it is a learned historical behavior. There is total recklessness in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. All cities with Black mayors. We are supposed to have an understanding, and get the situation under control.

We have to tell these young people that you go to parties and barbecues to have fun, not shoot them up and kill people. But they are giving us things to kill our own people. We have to look at the whole issue. Where is the table where we can sit and have a real conversation about what is happening in our communities?”

Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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  2. Until Black Folks are ready to have an honest conversation about gun violence it will continue an honest conversation would start with listing victims and perps, listing age and race of the victim and perps, listing any precipitating factors, locations of shooting, time of the shootings and any other historical data covering the shootings and killings with the info put a face to all the perps make the perps famous put they info on facebook, youtube and all the other social media sites come to the logical conclusion based on the data that shows young black male thugs are the enemy of Black Folks and Black Communities throughout America Black Communities needs to pair up with Combat tested Veterans and establish Self Defense Teams this training will need to include familiarization of fire arms , hours on the range learning how to shoot and clean your weapon, basic defensive tactics, proper radio communication protocols , situational awareness training, local gun laws, obtaining your conceal carry permit, and lastly every member should have at least two firearm a high powered rifle AR 15 type high capacity magazines 30 rounds with this style rifle that 223 round it is guaranteed that the thug will give up and a handgun 44, 45 or 357 calibers each of these handguns have outstanding stopping power additional training will need to include simple observation photographing and videoing every thug in sight also till Black Folks realize that these dudes have declared war on the Black Community it will continue that is the reality.

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