By Trang Do

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In 2020, the homicide rate in Philadelphia hit a level not seen since the early 1990s. Now, Philadelphians are hoping to curb gun violence in 2021, in their own ways.

People who live in the city and are fed up with the gun violence aren’t wasting any time to ensure that 2021 is not a repeat of 2020’s near-record level of homicides.

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“We had 499 homicides last year, right now we’re approaching 20,” said activist Jamal Johnson.

Johnson has had enough, that’s why the 63-year-old Germantown resident has decided to go on a hunger strike until Mayor Jim Kenney takes action on a City Council resolution passed last September that would declare gun violence a citywide emergency.

“We just want him to acknowledge and give us some indication of what he intends to do since it has been on his desk for four months,” Johnson said.

Similarly, Chestnut Hill mom Emily Clark is fed up with the constant headlines of people being gunned down in the city.

Through the Greenfield Foundation and a GoFundMe campaign, she has teamed up with longtime activist Bilal Qayyum to raise money to host two gun buybacks this Saturday.

One of the buybacks will be held at Yesha Ministries Worship Center, located at 2301 Snyder Avenue. The second will be held at Greater Exodus Baptist Church, located at 704 North Broad Street. Both are scheduled for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Only working handguns or semi-automatic firearms will be accepted. Participants will receive a $100 gift certificate to Brown’s ShopRite stores in Philadelphia.

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It’s a program they announced in a news conference with city officials Monday afternoon.

“I just feel like, until everybody is safe, I can’t just sit around in my safe neighborhood and not do something,” Clark said.

Councilmembers addressed concerns about the effectiveness of gun buyback programs, saying that even getting one gun off the street that could be used in a crime is worth the effort.

In response to Johnson’s hunger strike, a city spokesperson sent Eyewitness News a statement which reads: “We respect Mr. Johnson’s right to protest and appreciate his efforts to bring much-needed attention to this critical issue. Making our communities safer is an absolute priority to the Mayor and his Administration. As you may recall, the Mayor put forth a call to action in Fall of 2018, citing that gun violence is a public health emergency, and we have been working unrelentingly to save lives in the midst of a global pandemic. Instead of arguing over semantics, the City is interested in working together with all stakeholders to address our gun violence epidemic. By creating and elevating the role of the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, we believe we have aligned the violence prevention work in ways that will lead to significant reductions in gun violence this year.”

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