THE DEVASTATING TOLL OF GUN VIOLENCE
Washington DC’s gun violence crisis is among the worst in the Nation.
Communities are in agony - suffering through the trauma and tragedy of shootings at a rate higher than it has been in almost two decades.
DC has the highest rate of gun homicides in US compared to all states, and ranks in top 10 among all cities.
In 2021, 226 lives were taken by violence and 904 individuals sustained injury shootings.
But the toll of gun violence is uneven throughout the city, and is concentrated in the same neighborhoods that for decades have suffered from disinvestment, injustice, and economic inequity. We cannot stand by and watch this continue. There can be no racial or economic justice until we eliminate gun violence. There can be no equity in education, access to mental health, housing, or closing the wealth gap until we make the communities under constant threat of gunfire safe enough for investment and opportunity.
Freedom from gun violence is a basic human right. We must make every neighborhood safe for every person.
And we can.
Compared to all states, Washington, DC has the highest rate of gun homicides and the 2nd highest rate of gun assaults.
87% of homicides in 2020 were committed with a gun -- taking 172 lives.
2020 also saw 922 injury shootings -- a 64% increase from 2017
In addition to this devastating human toll, gun violence costs the District $3 billion per year.
A SURGICAL FOCUS
ON A SMALL NUMBER OF GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
For over two decades, evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies have been proven to significantly reduce group and individual violence in cities across the U.S. These efforts must be specifically directed at the very small number of individuals most at risk of being perpetrators and victims of gun violence.
By focusing on this small number of individuals and their families, we can stop the violence without resorting to ineffective and damaging policies such as over-policing and mass incarceration. Experts can help identify and continuously update group dynamics in order to provide fair and focused outreach and intervention.
The goal for everyone across a multi-disciplinary team is to help individuals stay alive, stay out of prison, and find a path out of the cycle of violence and retaliation. Successfully connecting with just one seriously at-risk individual, will not only save their life, but also the lives of their next victims, and spare loved ones the darkness and pain of grief, fear, and trauma. Without private investment, these strategies will never have the necessary scale or focus.
In any city with extensive community violence, the number of people most at risk of either perpetrating, or becoming a victim, is very small - typically less than one-half of one-percent of a city’s population.
RAVAGING BLACK HOUSEHOLDS AND IMPEDING ECONOMIC MOBILITY
Black people are 22x more likely than white people to die by guns in D.C. (national average is 2x)
Addressing gun violence directly will save lives and will help address systemic racial and economic injustices.
THE RIPPLE EFFECTS
OF GUN VIOLENCE
Gun violence causes long-lasting trauma and stress to people who have been shot, people who have had loved ones taken by gun violence, and people who hear gunfire near their home, school, or work in their every day lives.
People experiencing trauma due to gun violence have difficulty focusing on daily tasks, coping with other stressors, sleeping, maintaining relationships, and other symptoms. The ripple effects spread throughout a person's life, and extend further into a person's family and social circle, debilitating entire neighborhoods and communities.
Gun violence acts like a disease, spreading from person to person within a social circle and between adjacent social circles via retaliation and normalization of violence. We can break this cycle through prevention, intervention, and transformation.
Intervention involves rigorously studying past shootings and homicides, identifying patterns, connections, and group dynamics. This helps to focus efforts on those most at risk of being perpetrators or victims.
Efforts then focus on engaging in robust outreach in order to build trust, defuse dangerous situations and provide an array of services and alternatives to violence.
It’s this last part- providing services and long-term care- that is so crucial. If we cannot follow up with resources, that client will lose trust. And without those resources, clients have little alternatives to the default around them: violence.
WHY WE MUST DO THIS
Poverty, lack of good employment and education opportunities, unaffordable housing and childcare, and other systemic problems contribute to community gun violence, but the solutions we have to address these systemic problems do not reduce gun violence. Gun violence must be tackled directly, with focused efforts that can achieve significant results in a short amount of time.
Research proves that as we reduce gun violence, we will also improve other societal conditions. A 2012 study by Everytown and the Urban Institute showed that gun violence surges in specific neighborhoods greatly contributed to losses in wealth, jobs, and economic development.
Each additional homicide in a census tract was significantly associated with two fewer retail and service businesses the next year. For census tracts with available gunshot detection technology data, every 10 fewer incidents of gunfire in a census tract were significantly related to one new business opening, the creation of 20 jobs in new businesses, $1.3 million more in sales at new businesses, and one fewer business closure.
By reducing gun violence, we make it safe to go outside, go to school, go to work, and open a new business. By reducing gun violence, we can make substantial progress on safety, equity, and economic security in our most impacted communities.
Government can’t do it alone. In order to bring about real change and save lives, everyone across the city must act.
THE ANSWERS ARE
IN THE COMMUNITY
The communities most impacted by gun violence know what is needed, and know how to reach people. Communities do not want to be delivered public safety. They want to co-create public safety and be treated as true partners in keeping their neighborhoods safe. A transformational relationship, not transactional. This can be done. It has been done before in DC to help bring about the 2012 decline in homicides, and more recently through comprehensive plans in other cities.
DC is extremely fortunate to have numerous dedicated frontline peacemakers and dozens of grassroots organizations that can do the prevention, intervention, and transformation work that is necessary to reduce violence and maintain peace. Our role is ensuring that they have the resources- including funds, training, and capacity- necessary to get the job done.