On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Byron Pitts filed a report on the causes of and potential solutions for Philadelphia's high murder rate in which the correspondent heard from several people who approached the problem from a liberal point-of-view while the NRA's Wayne LaPierre voiced a conservative point-of-view on the issue. While LaPierre stressed the need for more prosecutions of criminals, other activists blamed the crime problem on such issues as income "disparity," "availability of guns," and "inherent racism." (Transcript follows)
Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries blamed poverty: "It's about disparity. It's about this distance and a gulf that's ever widening between the haves and the have-nots." The Children Defense Fund's Marian Wright Edelman called for more spending on education. When pressed by Pitts about the excessive cost, Edelman responded: "It's cheaper than emergency rooms. It's cheaper than a jail cell."
Miami Police Chief John Timoney called for more gun control and argued that if more of the victims were white, that there would be a call to ignore the NRA and pass more gun laws. Timoney: "There's also some inherent racism. I can guarantee you ... that if 85 percent of the people in big cities were getting killed were white, there'd be a different approach to this whole thing. ... They'd be screaming for more federal legislation. They'd be demanding it, and to hell with the NRA."
While he allowed liberal perspectives to dominate the story, Pitts did at least allow the NRA's LaPierre to respond to Timoney's charges directly, and the correspondent also challenged two teens to solve their own problems because America is the "land of opportunity." Pitts: " But this is America, the land of opportunity. You can help yourself. You can pull yourself up, no?"
Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Tuesday July 24 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: There was yet another fatal shooting in Philadelphia today, and that brought the number of murders in the city this year to 236. But it's not just Philadelphia. Homicides are up sharply in other big cities as well. Tonight, our national correspondent Byron Pitts focuses on solutions as he concludes his series "Battle Line Philadelphia."
BYRON PITTS: This is north Philadelphia. We showed the Philadelphia story to seven people from the front lines. Since the year 2001, there have been 10,000 shooting victims in Philadelphia. The head of the NRA:
Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice President: It's tragic and horrible.
MEL WELLS, Philadelphia community activist: I believe that this is a war.
PITTS: The Children's Defense Fund:
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, Children's Defense Fund: There is a war going on in this country.
PITTS: A preacher, a police chief, an employer, all from different parts of the country.
Father GREG BOYLE, Homeboy Industries: It's about disparity. It's about this distance and a gulf that's ever widening between the haves and the have-nots.
PITTS: Each with different perspectives on this modern-day problem of violence and illegal guns.
Chief JOHN TIMONEY, Miami Police Department: There's been no national effort to deal with this, with the guns and the availability of guns. Any reasonable measures that have been advocated have been defeated by Congress.
PITTS: But while the adults saw and articulated what should be, it took two teenagers, former gang bangers from the south side of Chicago, to see these images, and, as they say on the street, keep it real, tell the truth.
DOMINESE: You think he's saying that for no reason? He's saying that because he means it, because he knows I didn't-
PITTS: In their neighborhood sits a makeshift memorial to kids murdered in Chicago. Eighteen-year-old Dominese said he's had at least four friends murdered. Seventeen-year-old Tim says he's lost count.
TIM: Made me wonder why, why they got to die at an early age. Just let's me know I could die any time seeing that.
DOMINESE: We don't really got nobody who help us, not at all.
TIM: We've got some people, but it ain't enough people.
PITTS: But this is America, the land of opportunity. You can help yourself. You can pull yourself up, no?
DOMINESE: To me, those are slogans, those are sayings, man. The City of Brotherly Love. If it's the City of Brotherly Love in Philadelphia, why so many people getting killed?
PITTS: That's a simple enough question, and here's the answer: There is no simple answer. The blame and the solutions lie in many places.
Reverend RAPHAEL WARNOCK, Ebenezer Baptist Church: Until there's great debate about losing the war in Iraq, and clearly, we're losing the war not only in Iraq, we're losing the war on American streets.
TIMONEY: There's also some inherent racism. I can guarantee you, I can guarantee you, that if 85 percent of the people in big cities were getting killed were white, there'd be a different approach to this whole thing.
PITTS: Remember that's a police chief talking.
TIMONEY: They'd be screaming for more federal legislation. They'd be demanding it, and to hell with the NRA.
LAPIERRE: To hell with the people that want to sit on their butt and not find prosecutors, courtrooms, judges, and prison cells to take these people off the street to make these neighborhoods safe.
EDELMAN: I would make sure that every child has a healthy start and a fair start in life. Every child needs a good education.
PITTS: I can hear members of Congress saying now, "That's awfully expensive what you propose."
EDELMAN: Oh, it's cheaper than emergency rooms. It's cheaper than a jail cell.
LAPIERRE: The choice is do you leave them out there, or do you find a prison cell?
BOYLE: It's not enough to tell kids to just say no to gangs. You also have to have society just say yes to these kids.
DOMINESE: I'm going to go back to church, try to better myself, get wise and know more about the Lord so I can see his way of things. I already know my way of things. I want to hear what he got to say.
PITTS: Whether it's a real faith or a real job, even real prison time, every kid we talked to welcomed something they could hold on to other than a gun. Byron Pitts, CBS News, Philadelphia.