With Los Angeles now recording over 300 homicides this year — the vast majority of which have been gun homicides — below is a response from Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action and five suggestions for covering this grim milestone in context:
“Too many families in LA have experienced the tragedy of losing a loved one this year,” said Deborah Nelson, a volunteer with the California chapter of Moms Demand Action in Los Angeles and Everytown Survivor Fellow whose youngest daughter, Monique, was shot and killed saving her son from an active shooter in 2010. “We know that gun violence is preventable, and ending this public health crisis can only happen by prioritizing funding for the communities disproportionately impacted.”
Context to keep in mind:
1) The pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, in Los Angeles and across the country.
- Lack of access to opportunity is a key driver of gun violence, and the pandemic has brought an economic crisis. The economic fallout has also disproportionately affected communities where decades of policy decisions have created conditions that contribute to gun violence. “To put it bluntly,” Michael-Sean Spence, Everytown’s community safety initiatives director, wrote in Newsweek earlier this year, “underinvestment in Black and Latino neighborhoods has created the environments in which public health epidemics thrive.”
2) The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the work of local gun violence intervention programs.
- Many local gun violence intervention programs — which have seen success in preventing daily gun violence in cities — have experienced unprecedented challenges in their work, including strained funding, social distancing measures which have impacted interpersonal conflicts, causing them to occur more frequently and escalate more quickly via online communication, and an expansion of their mission to include preventing the spread of the virus.
3) Local leaders should continue to invest in — and reporters should seek out for insight — community-led violence intervention programs that save lives. Los Angeles’s gun violence intervention programs include:
- H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation, an organization working to provide the resources and guidance to help struggling youth and community members as well as utilize violence reduction tactics.
- Southern California Crossroads, an organization working to provide safety and healing to individuals and communities who have been impacted by trauma caused by gun violence.
- Urban Peace Institute, an organization working to develop relationships between law enforcement and Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles.
4) State officials can tap into existing funding to help.
- In addition to increasing dedicated state funding for gun violence prevention and services for survivors of gun violence, state agencies should utilize federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance funding to support local organizations serving survivors of gun violence and their communities.
5) Federal inaction has left cities and states to fend for themselves in addressing gun violence, an uphill battle given the country’s patchwork of state gun laws.
- The current House of Representatives has passed several bills that address gun violence, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, and the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 –– but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to bring any of them to the Senate floor for a vote. President Trump has also repeatedly failed to take action on gun safety, incited violence against those protesting violence by police, and chosen the NRA –– which gave more to his 2016 election efforts than any other outside group –– over the American people.
Resources for Covering Los Angeles’s Deadly Year: How the Pandemic Has Exacerbated Gun Violence, and How Policymakers Can RespondMore information about gun violence in California is available here, and more information about gun violence in cities is available here. To learn more about how to reduce city gun violence, visit CityGRIP.org.