The following is an open letter from Richard S. Hamburg, Executive Director at Safe States Alliance, a national non-profit and professional association working to strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention.
Today, on the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder, one week after the mass murder of black Americans in a Buffalo supermarket, and now the day after 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary in Texas were murdered, I am at a loss for words, plagued with questions. How often can we make public statements, express our outrage, and still take no action? When will this country put politics aside and respond to the needless violence? What can we do to protect our children and humanity? How do we keep from being complacent and move to meaningful action?
Safe States will not be silent and stand idly by. We are committed to working with our members, partners, elected officials, and funders to apply a public health approach to gun violence prevention and keeping this life and death issue prioritized in our programs, policies, and communications.
We are at a critical juncture. According to A Year in Review: 2020 Gun Deaths in the U.S. from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions,
- Gun violence was the leading cause of death among individuals under 25
- There were 45,222 gun deaths in the U.S.
- From 2019 to 2020, firearm homicides increased by 35%
- Black males were 20 times more likely to be a victim of gun homicide
- Every 2.5 days a child or teen was killed by an unintentional gun injury
And to cite a number from a 2018 Small Arms Survey - civilians in the U.S. own 393 million firearms. That is 120.5 firearms per person, more than 40 percent of all the civilian-owned guns in the world.
Don't let gun lobby efforts to divert our attention by talking about the rise in homicides by other means (knives) or arguments that gun violence is just a manifestation of our mental health crisis. Yes, that crisis is real and investments in programs that promote health and prevent substance misuse and suicide, including support for school programs focused on students' mental health and preventing substance use, and the strengthening of trauma-informed and culturally competent linguistically appropriate programs within all youth-serving agencies, including the juvenile justice system, are needed (Pain in the Nation 2022).
But let's be clear, the majority of homicides and suicides involve firearms. We need common sense laws to address gun violence. Comprehensive actions like universal background checks, safe storage initiatives, a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, implementation of Extreme Risk Protective Orders, and increased training on the safe and appropriate use of firearms can make a significant impact.
Safe States calls for action today! Contact your elected officials and urge them to take action now to save lives.
Media Contact: Richard.Hamburg@safestates.org, 678.369.8083
SSA Firearm Policy Statement 2019_Final.pdf
Press Release Service by Newswire.com
Original Source: Respectfully, We Will Not Be Silent: A Call to Action to End the Violence Plaguing the U.S.