As reported by the Greensboro News & Record, “With still another month left in 2020, Greensboro has seen a record 56 homicides, surpassing last year’s record of 45. Almost all of the victims are [B]lack, and authorities say the assailants in violent crimes are getting younger and more guns are being used to commit them.”
“Far too many families – ours included – have had to suffer the tragedy of seeing a loved one wounded or die by gun violence this year,” said Alicia Campbell, a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose son Ahmad was shot and killed in 2016. “And with the pandemic exacerbating the root causes of gun violence, it’s more important than ever that we support violence intervention programs who are doing vital work on the ground to end gun violence.”
Additional context to keep in mind:
1) The pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, in Greensboro 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. In 2019, the City Council allocated $500,000 to fund a Cure Violence program in Greensboro, and voted to fund the program with an additional $399,000 through 2021. The Greensboro Cure Violence program has proven effective in preventing gun homicides in the areas it operates.
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) The U.S. Senate’s refusal to act 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 Donald Trump has also repeatedly failed to take meaningful 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.
To become a safer state, North Carolina could strengthen its laws by expanding its permit requirement to apply to all gun sales, not just handgun sales. It can also expand its domestic violence laws to prohibit people from possessing firearms who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. The state could also pass an Extreme Risk law, which would empower loved ones or law enforcement to intervene in order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing firearms.
Black people are 7 times as likely as white people to die by gun homicide. More information about gun violence in North Carolina 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.