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What Are We Doing About Gun Violence?

Part one of a five-part series of interviews with and commentary by leaders working to reduce gun violence in the United States.

Preventing Gun Violence: In-Depth Series

This special series of interviews explores the issue of gun violence in the United States, and highlights some of the most innovative entrepreneurs and cross-sector initiatives tackling the problem.

Recently, there was the Los Angeles International Airport shooting—before that, it was the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Aurora movie theater, Gabby Giffords in Tucson. Before that, it was Columbine High School, and so on. With every horrific story of gun violence, we vow to amend gun laws so that they require universal background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We talk about increasing spending on mental health programs. Then, as the news coverage fades, so does our attention.

Meanwhile, gun violence continues to happen outside of the spotlight every single day. Using data from a dedicated Twitter feed that tracks “gun deaths in the [United States] regardless of cause and without comment” and figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Slate magazine estimates that “roughly 29,776 people have died from guns in the [United States] since the Newtown shootings”—that’s an average of more than 90 deaths per day between December 14, 2012, and November 8, 2013.

Bills drafted to address this problem—such as Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey’s bipartisan proposal to expand background checks on gun purchases last April—have failed, making it clear that there is powerful resistance to enacting measures that would help curb gun violence. Gun lobbyists, for example, believe restrictive legislation infringes on their constitutional rights, and the firearms industry wants to continue to enjoy legal protections, such as consumer product liability lawsuit immunity under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, that other industries do not.

Despite these and many other challenges, some innovators are finding ways to intervene and disrupt the violence. To amplify the conversation as we mark the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, this series will share interviews with leaders who are spearheading initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and preventing mass tragedies. These influencers come from diverse backgrounds—including media, politics, and entertainment—and are shaping how we think and talk about safety in our country; they are working across sectors to improve the state of our nation. Here’s a preview:

Reuters journalist Rob Cox, a resident of Newtown, Conn., helped form the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting family members impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy and reducing the causes of gun violence to prevent future tragedies. The Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative aims to engage the technology industry in creating businesses that provide gun violence-reducing solutions. Inspired by the Initiative, several Silicon Valley investors formed the Smart Tech Foundation and recently launched the Smart Tech Firearms Challenge with a $1 million prize to entice entrepreneurs to focus on safety. A committee of technical and investment advisors reviews proposals, then pairs participants with development teams and awards prizes to the best ideas. This type of civil campaign is a first-of-its-kind and may provide a model for the technology industry to tackle other timely political issues.

Second-term Mayor of Philadelphia Michael A. Nutter has created an anti-violence agenda for Philadelphia, as well as other cities across the country. Along with New Orleans Mayor Landrieu, Mayor Nutter launched Cities United in 2011 as a collaborative effort among mayors, foundations, national nonprofits, federal agencies, and youth to interrupt the cycle of violence among urban African-American males. The initiative engages those most at-risk of committing violence in discussion about preventing future incidents, and develops practical recommendations for violence reduction at both the municipal and national level.

Musician, writer, and speaker Mike de la Rocha works in criminal justice, spirituality, and self-development, and uses his art as a way to stimulate conversation, build community, and inspire change. In 2012, he kicked off The Living Rooms Across America Tour, with stops in 10 of the most violent cities in the United States. Through a combination of living room performances and intimate discussions with policymakers, cultural influencers, and community leaders about reducing violence, de la Rocha hopes that the power of music will help shift public conversation. A documentary about the inaugural tour by filmmaker Dream Hampton is scheduled for release in 2014.

Through grassroots and localized efforts, these safety advocates are testing new strategies to address the issue of gun violence in America. We hope you’ll join us over the coming weeks to learn more about the creative efforts underway. It’s our belief that the more we talk about the role of guns in American society and acknowledge the reality of this situation, the closer we will come to making progress on this issue; the individuals featured in this series demonstrate that every one of us can play a role in preventing violence—we simply have to engage.

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COMMENTS

  • BY steve heilig

    ON November 19, 2013 11:37 AM

    Excellent perspective, and thanks for it.  A long-term perspective is important here too. Real improvement in reducing such violence and in changing America’s “gun culture” will take generations.  Measuring impact of gun control policies and better education in years, even a decade, is too short and a route to self-fulfilling failure that plays into the gun lobby’s constant argument that such policies “don’t work” (see - assault weapons ban). Crime is down overall in most places and that can continue as the older gun-lovers die out and reasonable policies become normalized.  Thus, the battle is for the long run.  Thanks again.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-heilig/gun-policy-and-safety-doc_b_2279268.html

  • Americans For Truth's avatar

    BY Americans For Truth

    ON November 21, 2013 11:34 AM

    I’m really appalld by your Gun Control perspective. Fictional facts like “roughly 29,776 people have died from guns in the [United States] since the Newtown shootings” twist the truth as they include legal moral shootings by law enforcement and Federal agents preventing crime. MAIG intentionally uses this lie to promote their Gun Control platform too.

    People like Rachael Chong are the issue with violence in America. They promote political agenda’s with rhetoric that attacks the millions of innocent law abiding responsible American’s who are doing one thing with firearms. Using them safely to protect their children from being slaughtered by violent psychopaths who rape, murder kidnap, sell and abuse women and kids. Gun violence is two words.

    Until anti Constitutionalists like Chong, Bloomberg, Cuomo, Feinstein,... and The Slate go after violence and stop the political rhetoric, criminals will continue to win and our Nation will lose.

  • BY Joseph Bute

    ON November 26, 2013 06:36 AM

    I’d be a lot happier if we focused on gun trafficking rather than gun violence.  From an urban perspective, the presence of firearms substantially increases the lethality of any encounter and more often than not we are seeing children with lethal force using it to settle disputes as minor as being disrespected or losing a pick-up basketball game.  The fact that weapons that retail for hundreds of dollars are sold on the streets out of the truncks of cars for a lot less to children hardly seems to get anyone’s attention.  Here in Pittsburgh, we are witnessing shootings weekly involving children both as shooters and as targets.  The community response is inadequate, the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care and law enforcement seems to be ill-equipped to find a way to reduce the flow of firearms into the communities.  We are about as successful at stopping this as we are drugs.  And make no mistake, most of these weapons are either being purchased at gun shows or acquired by stealing them from owners who probalby purchased them legally.  Any thoughts?

  • chuckle chuckle's avatar

    BY chuckle chuckle

    ON November 26, 2013 10:25 PM

    Gun control “hasn’t worked”, if by “worked” you mean, “one can demonstrate, evidentially, a causal link between the majority of restrictive gun policies attempted and a statistically significant reduction in _violent crime_, when controlled for other factors.”

    What I absolutely love about this article is that it is advocating an approach that leaves American citizens to do what they do best: innovate and persevere themselves out of a dangerous predicament by voluntarily working together.

    Failing _clear and convincing_ evidence that “gun control” will significantly reduce violent crimes (in whatever form they take), I prefer the approaches listed here to those that would, in any way, prevent innocent, law abiding citizens from defending themselves on their own terms.

  • Kenneth A.'s avatar

    BY Kenneth A.

    ON January 3, 2014 03:47 AM

    Assault Weapon Bans are a very misguided effort considering the fact that nearly half of the murders committed in the United States are committed with handguns while less than 3 percent are committed with any type of rifle, whether or not it’s a semi-automatic rifle with supposedly “military-style” features such as pistol grips or adjustable stocks which have no bearing on lethality of the firearm whatsoever.

    According to gun control advocates, a pistol grip facilitates “accurate spray firing from the hip” when it’s actually easier to shoot from the hip with a traditional stock than it is with a pistol grip, that an adjustable stock makes it more concealable even though when the stock is folded there is only a reduction of a few inches and the firearm is still over 2 feet long, not exactly concealable at all.

    Total murders…12,664…100.00%
    Handguns…6,220….49.12%
    Firearms (type unknown)...1,684…13.30%
    Edged weapons…1,694…..13.38%
    Other weapons (non-firearm, non-edged)..1,659…13.10%
    Hands, feet, etc…..728…..5.75%
    Shotguns….356….2.81%
    Rifles…323…...2.55%

    It makes absolutely no sense for gun control advocates to waste political capital banning rifles with cosmetic features but ignore the real problem of handgun violence.

  • What Are We Doing About Gun Violence?

    Mmmm. I’ll take a shot. First off democratically controlled cities will pass legislation that only affects honest ordinary citizens. That will leave said citizens defenseless to criminals who do not obey the law in the first place.

    Criminals will be emboldened by these new laws and will become more aggressive since no one is around to stop or deter them. Crime will go up in these areas so more cops and laws will be passed since they are needed for “protection”. All this comes at a price so they will raise taxes on the remaining honest gun owners and the general public.

    The higher tax rates will limit job growth creating more unemployment that will lead to more criminals thus starting the cycle over again. After all the businesses are gone due to high taxes and crime, the city will declare bankruptcy and ask for bailout from the government. Sounds about right.

  • Marilyn Firth's avatar

    BY Marilyn Firth

    ON January 16, 2014 03:44 PM

    I believe that all the innovative efforts described in these articles are very important and have an effective role to play in providing structures for individual citizens and grassroots organizations to implement non-violent solutions to otherwise potentially violent social problems. 

    HOWEVER, I don’t believe that the problem of this country’s gun mania (and its resulting appalling record of gun violence) will ever be solved until the hearts and minds of an overwhelming majority of our citizens are won over in counter-balance to the power and voting influence of the NRA.

    I believe that the most powerful and effective way to accomplish this counter balance is through hard-hitting, emotionally engaging TV and mass media ads.  The organizations in favor of better gun-control measures need to pool their resources to hire the very best advertising agencies, featuring well-loved celebrities and touching testimony from ordinary salt-of-the-earth citizens, and get these ads out there to change minds and urge action!

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