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Francis Wilkinson

In Philadelphia, Teenagers Want Guns Off the Streets

Volunteers and community groups are fighting a historic wave of violence that has overwhelmed police and prosecutors.

Investigating a shooting, July 2021.

Investigating a shooting, July 2021.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America

“It wasn’t meant for them.”

Yanae Petty, a 17-year-old high school student in Philadelphia, used variations of that phrase several times when we talked in February about gun violence in her hometown. There was the time she was out with friends after having gotten pizza, “and then somebody just started shooting.” The gunfire “wasn’t meant for me,” Petty said. “I was in the midst of it, but nobody got hit. He was shooting everywhere else.” Another time, she said, she was in a car with friends and shots were fired. Her friends were frightened and angry, but “it wasn’t meant for them.” Then there was the time Petty witnessed not the shooting but the bloody aftermath. “I think he died,” she said.