How To Combat Gun Violence
By VRINDA GUPTA | February 2, 2018
As of this writing, the month of January is over and there have been 11 school shootings so far in the US. Fortunately, not all of these incidents resulted in death, but a proportion of the shooters were only 13 or 14 year olds. Still not alarmed? The number of school shootings since 2013 is around 280, in other words, there has been one school shooting per week. While all eyes are on the Middle East, an American citizen is 2,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow citizen than by a non-state militant actor. This is not to say that such murders do not occur in other developed countries such as those in Europe. The difference is that mass casualties related to gun violence are an exception in all other Western nations, as opposed to 300 in the year 2017.
Are Americans just inherently violent? Issues such as mental health, video games, and even crime rates are all unrelated to the number of shootings. Research has repeatedly shown that the only discernible cause for these high levels of gun violence is the number of guns in the country. This makes crime rates in America, while at the same level as other countries, more likely to be lethal.
The Second Amendment, which offers the right of American citizens to own a weapon, had its appearances in other Constitutions as well. The UK and Australia at some point did allow the possession of private firearms, but now have some of the strictest gun control laws. After a terrible mass shooting in the UK in the 1980s and in Australia in the 1990s, both countries were quick to ban the possession of guns. The policy was supported by wide public outrage against guns and even by the conservative governments. What sets the US apart from its counterparts is the choice to maintain the consequences of this constitutional right, to say that all the killings are worth holding a lethal weapon.
But we all know that policy makers will not budge when it comes to the Second Amendment. Does this mean there is no hope? Dr. Gary Slutkin begs to differ. He spent a decade fighting epidemics in Africa, and when he came back and saw the alarming homicide levels, he noticed a key characteristic in the pattern of gun violence: the spread mimics that of an infectious disease. Once he looked at gun violence as a public health issue, he came up with an effective, hands-down approach to reduce deaths caused by the pathogen of street violence. He founded Cure Violence. When CeaseFire, one of his programs, was applied to high violence areas such as Chicago, Baltimore, and New York, the results were startling. Independent evaluations show that lethal violence rates were cut by 50% in the specific zones concerned, and by 25% across the cities.
Slutkin’s main idea was to identify prime areas for intervention, such as high risk individuals and under served areas. The members are people who have links to these communities, and when they are sent back in after being contacted by Cure Violence, amazing things happen. These confederates advocate alternatives and seek to move away from the normalized attitude towards violence. Instead, they encourage community events and conflict negotiation workshops. This actually works. Shootings went down by approximately 41 to 73% in Chicago, depending on the year. The potential impact of such programs, when applied city-wide instead of community by community, could be immense and just what this country needs.
Cure Violence is mostly reliant on state and federal grants for funding and, therefore, experiences sporadic diminishes in its program, especially in 2007. This left Chicago’s population more vulnerable than ever before. Many high risk individuals were left to fend for themselves and, unsurprisingly, shootings increased for the first time after a long period of decline. There are, undoubtedly, other ways to curb down the shameful gun violence rates in America, such as increasing youth employment. Yet, none of these address the inherent cause of this public health crisis: Americans may just own way too many guns.