As gun violence remains at higher levels nationally than it was before the pandemic, shootings in a number of cities over the long weekend have left more than 180 people dead and many more injured. According to news reports, the shootings included:
- Norfolk, Virginia: A shooting wounded a 6-year-old girl and three other children
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Two teenagers were killed and three other people wounded in a shooting at a block party
- Ft. Worth, Texas: An exchange of gunfire at a car wash wounded eight people
- Los Angeles, California: Ty Bray, a recent 2021 high school graduate, was killed driving home Monday morning, one of at least 16 people were shot and killed in weekend shootings in the city
- Chicago, Illinois: A shooting killed two people and wounded a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-boy, and in total more than 100 people were shot over the weekend as the city saw its most violent weekend of the year to date.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A shooting at a cookout killed a fashion designer and a state lawmaker’s relative, and it wounded a 16-year-old girl
In addition to those who are directly affected by shootings, gun violence creates ripple effects that affect entire communities, and these effects are not spread evenly. Black and Latino communities have borne the heaviest burden of gun violence in cities for years, a result of generations of systemic racial discrimination and inequities in health care, housing and education that have exacerbated the risks of gun violence.
As your newsroom covers gun violence in your community, below are a few suggestions:
1) Cover the options cities have for fighting gun violence – including spending federal COVID relief to fund evidence-informed community violence intervention programs.
The White House has specifically identified community violence intervention as an eligible use of the $350 billion of state and local aid being made available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and already, cities are taking action.
Devoting ARP funds to intervention efforts is just one of a number of tools cities have for addressing gun violence. Many others are described in CityGRIP, an interactive online platform that draws on years of interviews with city officials about their uses of data in local public safety efforts, as well as extensive research on the effectiveness of a wide range of community-based gun violence prevention strategies.
2) Include context about the policies state lawmakers are considering or passed during the 2021 legislative session that may impact gun violence.
While many state legislatures heeded the call for action to prevent gun violence and passed common-sense gun safety measures, others doubled down on the gun lobby’s “guns-everywhere” agenda and weakened public safety laws, passing dangerous gun bills that have been shown to lead to more gun deaths. Many of those laws go into effect this month, more information available here.
3) Include context on the comprehensive strategy recently announced by the Biden-Harris administration to combat gun violence.
The Biden-Harris administration recently outlined a new five-part strategy to reduce gun violence that includes the creation of new strike forces to take on gun trafficking, new efforts to hold rogue gun dealers accountable for violating federal laws, investments in community violence intervention programs, and more. The strategy convenes a new Community Violence Intervention Collaborative of 15 jurisdictions that are committing to use a portion of their American Rescue Plan funding (or other funding) to increase investment in community violence intervention infrastructure, helping prepare cities for potential rises in violence over the summer.
4) Include ATF data on the sources of crime guns recovered in your state.
As cities in states with good gun laws grapple with increasing gun violence, be sure to note the influx of firearms from states with lax laws as a key driver. Use The Crime Gun Dashboard, released in May, to easily explore data on crime guns flowing into and out of every state collected by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The data makes clear gun traffickers seek out states without background check laws as sources of firearms, underscoring the need for the Senate to pass background check legislation.
5) Cover the ongoing conversations in the U.S. Senate about background check legislation – and ask senators where they stand.
While federal law requires background checks for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for sales by unlicensed dealers, even in instances when they sell guns to strangers they met online or at gun shows. But after years of inaction, bipartisan conversations continue in the U.S. Senate on background checks legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to putting gun safety legislation on the Senate floor.
6) Report on the ways the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate key drivers of gun violence as infections decline.
Lack of access to income, suitable housing, and other critical life needs are key drivers of gun violence, and the pandemic has caused widespread economic upheaval while disrupting the delivery of social services. States and cities are just now getting many of these critical supports back on line. Many local gun violence intervention programs — which have seen success in preventing daily gun violence in cities — also experienced unprecedented challenges in their work, including strained funding, social distancing measures, and an expansion of their mission to include preventing the spread of the virus.
Together, these are among the compounding factors that may explain the upward trend.
Additional suggestions – including resources for centering the work of community-led gun violence intervention programs and using a trauma-informed approach to interviews with survivors – are available here.