Session Type(s): Panel
Starts: Friday, Aug. 19 11:00 AM (Eastern)
Ends: Friday, Aug. 19 12:00 PM (Eastern)
The gun violence epidemic took the lives of 1,752 Pennsylvanians and injured roughly 3,000 more in 2020. Nationally, 45,222 Americans died from firearms in 2020. This public health crisis is destroying families and communities. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Data show that sensible gun safety laws and investment in community-based violence prevention programs are effective at reducing shootings. Join a Pittsburgh-based panel of community leaders and gun violence prevention policy advocates at the state and local levels to discuss the roots of the crisis, the policy solutions, the political landscape, and the path forward for the gun violence prevention movement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and across the country.
Josh Fleitman is CeaseFirePA’s Western Pennsylvania Manager, overseeing their strategy in the region to build power for the gun violence prevention movement.
Josh’s background is in politics, policy, and communications at the local, state, and federal government levels. He has long believed that the first and foremost duty of government is to protect the lives of citizens. To build support for public policy that can live up to this obligation, Josh is focused on tapping into shared values around the need for safer communities, building on CeaseFirePA’s strong presence in Western PA, and engaging new audiences among veterans, faith leaders, educators, medical professionals, and the business community. Josh previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to PA State Senator Pam Iovino and worked in the offices of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and various government agencies. He lives in the Pittsburgh area with his wife, cat, and dog.
Carolyn (Kerry) Ban retired five years ago from a long career in academia, including 20 years at the University of Pittsburgh. She has spent her life also as an activist, working on campaigns and in advocacy, including as the vice president of the New York Abortion Rights Action League and a member of the board of the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Kerry is an active member of a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation, Dor Hadash, one of the three congregations that met at the Tree of Life Building, which was attacked in 2018 in the worst episode of antisemitic violence in US history. At that time, she chaired the Social Action committee and led the effort to found Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence in direct response. We are a program of CeaseFire PA, focusing our efforts on passing legislation to reduce gun violence.
Kerry has also taken the lead in forming the Clergy Council of Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, bringing together clergy across faiths who can bear moral witness to the horror of gun violence and to the need to take action.
Reverend Eileen O. Smith
A registered nurse, Reverend Eileen O. Smith retired from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Southwest District where she was the Violence and Injury Prevention Consultant for the Southwest District. Rev. Smith serves on many boards and committees including the Birmingham Foundation board of directors, and is the Executive Director of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP), founded by the Birmingham Foundation in 2005 following the shooting and killing of a 16 year old Carrick HS student. She continues her work in violence prevention from a public health standpoint and oversees many initiatives including the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers street outreach intervention initiative of the SPCP that focuses on mediation and alternatives to violence. This year the Coalition will commemorate a special 10 year Annual Dare to Dream Youth Session that highlights the positive activities of youth and presents scholarships and youth awards to inner city youth.
Rev. Smith is also the founder and Executive Director of the Minority Emergency Preparedness Task Force, a coalition that targets the disparate population for survival in major disasters and emergency situations as well as pandemics.
Rev. Eileen O. Smith is the Senior Pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in West Newton, PA.