Prevention Institute Applauds White House Leadership on Reducing Gun Violence
President Obama and Vice President Biden made a powerful call to reduce gun violence on Wednesday and we applaud their leadership. They spoke for the nation in expressing our collective horror at mass shootings and our outrage that lobbyists beholden to the arms industry have exercised such a chokehold over gun policy. As a result of industry influence, it’s easier to buy guns and ammunition than it is to obtain a driver’s license or purchase decongestants. That makes no sense.
The President’s plan is aimed at preventing more mass killings and we applaud that effort. But as President Obama said, 900 people have been killed by gunfire since the Connecticut school shooting and many of them are children shot on city street corners. These deaths are no less important because they occur one or two at a time in America’s poorest neighborhoods. If we want to reduce gun deaths, we must also focus on this, the biggest part of the violence epidemic.
The President called on Congress to outlaw high-capacity magazines, renew the ban on assault weapons and fund a range of mental health programs. He also issued 23 executive orders to do things like strengthen federal and state cooperation in background checks of gun buyers and better track guns seized in criminal investigations.
We endorse these proposals and urge you to communicate your support to Congress and your appreciation to the White House.
One of the executive orders directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “end the freeze on gun violence research” and resume studying causes of gun violence and potential solutions. The CDC has been barred by Congress since 1996 from using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control”—language that effectively ended CDC’s efforts to study guns. As an organization funded by the CDC to help cities reduce youth violence, Prevention Institute programs have been affected by this restriction. Yet, as the President said Wednesday, “we don’t benefit from ignorance” or “from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”
One thing we’ve learned from this work is that violence can be reduced when mayors and top officials take leadership and involve all stakeholders in designing and implementing comprehensive plans. Yes, we need and support more cops on the street. But we also need a comprehensive approach that includes prevention measures like having playgrounds stay open after school, well-staffed reentry programs for offenders coming out of prison, and a data-driven approach that studies violence in the communities where it occurs. Just as we need to make schools safer, let’s also make our neighborhoods safer.
Cities like Los Angeles and Minneapolis have achieved major reductions in homicides by implementing these kinds of strategies. It will take resources to replicate and maintain such successes.
So what can we all do to help end the epidemic of gun violence? Creating change requires sustained effort, and all of our best thinking. We suggest some initial steps on the side of this page and ask that you share this alert with your friends and colleagues so they can show their support as well. This endeavor will take all of us.