As the Courier Journal reported this weekend, Louisville is on track for one of the worst years for gun violence in recent history. The number of shootings in Louisville during the coronavirus outbreak has “more than doubled compared to the same time last year,” according to WAVE3 News. Amid this increase, local gun violence intervention and prevention programs in Louisville are not only continuing their life-saving work — they’re also changing their strategies to include fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
While states and cities are making difficult decisions about how best to apply strained resources, it’s critical that community-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs — including organizations saving lives in Louisville — continue to receive previously allocated funding during and after the pandemic.
No More Red Dots, a Louisville-based gun violence intervention group, has continued its outreach work during the pandemic. Employees, like Dr. Eddie Woods, still drive through neighborhoods hardest hit by violence, looking to connect with those at-risk of becoming involved in gun violence. As they adapt to new conditions, they’ve also added spreading public awareness about the virus to their life-saving strategies.
Hospital-based violence intervention programs, like the one operating in the University of Louisville Hospital’s trauma center, have also continued their work of supporting gunshot victims that come into their facilities. Community health workers continue to engage gunshot victims and their families in the aftermath of a shooting to intervene in the cycle of violence. They are exploring telehealth, phone, and text options to sustain outreach and services.
Research has shown that community-based gun violence prevention and intervention programs are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries in communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. In addition to full access to previously allocated funds, these programs would also benefit from relaxed funding restrictions to allow them to adapt to changing community needs, as well as procure personal protective equipment to keep employees safe as they continue their work amid the COVID-19 crisis.
In an average year, more than 200 people die from gun homicide in Kentucky, at a rate that has increased 63% between 2009 and 2018. Black people are seven times as likely as white people to die by gun homicide in the state. As the coronavirus crisis intensifies, meanwhile, data continues to emerge showing Black and brown communities are experiencing the disproportionate impact of both the coronavirus and ongoing gun violence.
As daily gun violence persists in cities, domestic violence hotlines across the country are also seeing upticks in calls, as are suicide prevention hotlines. And with more kids and teens at home with unsecured guns, volunteers with Kentucky Moms Demand Action are advocating for the Be SMART program and raising concerns about increases in unintentional shootings and gun suicides.
If you’re interested in learning more about gun violence during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to request an interview with a policy expert.