YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — A gun violence vigil Friday evening honored all of those lost to gun violence in York County so far in 2019.
The vigil had been planned for weeks and coincidentally came just 24 hours after a shooting that took the life of a 17-year-old Dover High School student, Emily Shoemaker.
Her death marked the 20th gun homicide in York County this year and the 14th in York, according to Mayor Michael Helfrich.
The vigil was also tied to the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which happened on Dec. 14, 2012.
Phoebe Doscher used to attend Sandy Hook and was in a nearby school when the rampage happened all those years ago. She now attends Gettysburg College and spoke at Friday’s vigil about her fight to end gun violence.
“I vividly recall cramming myself underneath a long lab table in my seventh-grade science classroom,” Doscher said.
She was in a different building but still on lockdown. Her sister was in the building where the rampage happened and thankfully wasn’t injured.
At Gettysburg College, Doscher heads up Students Demand Action on campus.
“We all thought that Sandy Hook was gonna be the last [mass shooting] because it was so bad,” Doscher said. “If it can happen at our little elementary school in our town to first graders, then it can happen anywhere.”
“It’s even bigger than the community. I think it starts at home. It starts with opportunities. It starts with education,” ABC27 news photographer Shelby Wormley said.
She believes that is where the solution begins. Her father was murdered in York in 2012.
“If one person doesn’t value their own life, they’re not gonna value the next person’s life,” Wormley said, adding that addressing issues head-on does make a difference.
“Making sure, hey, if you see this kid going in the wrong way, intervene,” Wormley said.
Candles were lit for each of York County’s 20 gun death victims.
Helfrich was there and visibly frustrated by what he considers a lack of power on his part to directly address the prevalence of guns in the city. He said buying and selling guns anywhere in the city is illegal.
“That means every gun in the city comes from somewhere else, and I have no power whatsoever to do anything about it,” he said.
Along with legislative change and advocacy, speakers say kindness goes a long way.
“In order for people to change, their hearts need to change,” Wormley said.
In addition to their longstanding gun violence initiative, the city does employ “call-ins” where individuals regularly involved in crime are identified and then brought before clergy, law enforcement or service groups and warned to either straighten up or face consequences.
Helfrich said the city offers them resources to get back on the right track and avoid falling back into a life of crime and violence.