Braddock

This is the Draco AK-47 my son August found directly behind our home last year while he was out with Gisele walking our dog Levi.

This is a small part of the truth of guns and gun violence I’ve confronted in Braddock over the past 20 years.

Since 2015, political adversaries have tried to portray an episode from 8 years ago as being racially motivated.

The facts, circumstances, and greater context of that encounter all support that race played no role.

In my community of Braddock — a town that is 80% Black — the people know me, they know my heart, and they know that’s not what this situation was about.

4 months after this episode happened, I was reelected by a 3–1 margin and again, overwhelmingly, 4 years later because they know how *deeply* committed my family and I are to the welfare of our community.

When I first ran for mayor in 2005, I made a pledge to confront the epidemic of gun violence in Braddock. My proudest moment in public service was, for the first time ever, going 5 1/2 years without the loss of life through gun violence in my community.

This conversation must acknowledge and account for the undeniable truth of the hurt, history, and trauma in Black and Brown communities around profiling and recognize the justified outrage and anger.

This was always my objective as mayor, so if I ever fell short of that, I apologize.

So here’s what happened. 8 years ago, I was outside with my 4-year-old son when I heard a loud burst of gunfire. You can’t live in a town like Braddock and not know exactly what gunfire sounds like. It was coming from a corridor in front of our home that’s been the site of countless shootings. Two other individuals stopped police and said they heard shots coming from that area as well.

I saw a lone individual in a full face mask running from the vicinity of the gunfire. There was only one person in the area and between the face mask and the way this person was dressed, bundled head to toe in the dead of winter, I didn’t know what race that individual was, or even their gender.

The individual was running towards our local elementary school — and this was in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary child massacre.

After quickly securing my son, I called 911, and made a decision to intercept the person and ask them to hold there until the first responders could arrive. I stayed at my truck and maintained a distance of almost 15 feet between us at all times. I had my gun with me, because I had just heard those shots. But at no point did I ever point it at anyone. Period.

The truth, then and now, whether it’s a small town like Braddock or a major city like Philadelphia, is we have a significant gun violence problem in our commonwealth and nation.

We must have an honest dialogue about this. This is one of the reasons I’m running on my 20 year record for the United States Senate.

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