The US must change its social safety net to combat gun violence

The America’s Future Starts Now: How Crime, Guns and Crime are Atop the Top Concerns for American Electors

The CNN Opinion series “America’s Future Starts Now” allows people to speak about how they have been adversely impacted by the biggest issues facing the nation and experts to offer solutions. The views expressed in these commentaries are the authors’ own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Recent polls show that the top concern for American voters is crime and guns. These issues certainly stick with Kathy Pisabaj, of Chicago, who was 19 in 2018 when she was shot by a stranger and nearly died.

“We believed that if we stayed away from gangs, we would not get hurt,” she wrote. Every day, gun violence ruins communities and wreaks havoc on my life.

I grew up in the Tamarind Avenue corridor of West Palm Beach, which is notorious for poverty, drug abuse and violent crime. It’s just a few miles from what was the “Winter White House,” or Mar-a-Lago.

Gun violence in the US has become one of the top concerns for American voters, at its highest level since the 1990s. The reforms to policing, bail, sentencing and other aspects of our criminal justice system have been debated in the country. The social safety net for young men, the group at highest risk of gun violence, is not being adequately addressed.

Inner City Innovations: Fighting Gun Violence and Crime in the Era of the era of the Internet and the age of the police: The case against gun violence in the 21st century

I was 26 and working the graveyard shift at an emergency shelter for displaced youth. My cousin was a worker at the nonprofit. Together, we went on to create Inner City Innovators, a nonprofit with three initiatives.

The Hope Dealer mentoring program combines individual and peer- to- peer mentoring, leadership development, community service and social-emotional learning. We prioritize giving youth (13+) someone to talk to.

We also work on the court side. A lot of young men are charged with gun offenses at a young age. Traditional mentoring programs do not accept people if they are in that kind of trouble. We work with judges and public defenders to give young men a second chance.

Keeping all young men free and alive through 25 is our goal. Most offending begins at 13 and goes until 25 when the brain is done developing. We want to capture and stabilize them when this demographic is known to struggle the most.

We don’t want to just keep them alive physically. We want to keep them alive spiritually and emotionally as well. We introduce them to yoga, mindfulness, out-of-the-hood experiences. When you were a child, you were raised in a group of people who were always poor. We want to encourage them to accomplish more.

Lack of education, poverty of community, brokenness of home – those aren’t sources of shame. Those are the sources of power. They should use these things to make better decisions.

We allow them to be involved while at the same time giving them the freedom to lead. When you challenge a young person who’s been through hard times, they want to stand up and show you they’re capable.

We can’t stop all the killings. Most of the young men that are involved in our Hope Dealer mentoring program with firearm charges stay on the path we put them on and leave activities that require picking up firearms behind them.

The founder of Inner City Innovators, a nonprofit located in West Palm Beach, Florida, fights crime and gun violence by empowering inner-city youths through mentoring programs, anti-violence workshops and community engagement. This piece was adapted from an interview with CNN’s Jessica Ravitz Cherof.

While these funding bills no doubt will be welcomed, they do not address the underlying issues driving up crime rates. It feels like the police are being put on the back foot. The era of proactive policing has come to an end, and violent crime has soared. A new wave of progressive district attorneys bent on criminal justice reform, in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have run into the hard wall of angry residents demanding public safety.

A college friend of mine was murdered during a carjacking. My daughter, a doctor, was attacked. In the eight months since I wrote that piece, circumstances haven’t changed.

My son’s friends, living in his former apartment, were robbed at gunpoint during a home invasion. My daughter scolded me recently for wearing an Apple Watch while walking two blocks to dinner because she feared I would be mugged.

Editor’s Note: Jens Ludwig is the Pritzker Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, and the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. The executive director of the National Center for Safe Communities is a senior research fellow with the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. CNN has more opinion on it.

The only thing that can be done to address the problem is for the local district attorneys, mayors and council members to publicly demonstrate their support for law enforcement and allow them to do what needs to be done in order to restore order. Morale is low in too many police departments and district attorney offices throughout the country, leading to dangerously high turnover rates while leaving behind understaffed and less experienced police officers and prosecutors.

A bipartisan gun safety bill was signed into law this summer. It doesn’t address my concerns about the safety of law enforcement officers, citizens and children. It doesn’t go far enough and is a way for politicians to appease the various sides on the issue. I think we agree on a lot more than that and that is what this is about. Most importantly, in a poll of Ohio residents, 90% were in favor of background checks for anyone purchasing a weapon. The basic element isn’t included in this bill.

It is past time to address the lawlessness within communities across the country. There is no reason we can’t do it. It just takes political will.

The Magic of Local Government: Launching a Gun Safety Campaign to Protect Children from Unintentional Gun Violence in the City of South Carolina

A former congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent was the chair of the House Ethics Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on military construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. He is a CNN political commentator.

This is the magic of local government. We can build the necessary force for change in a hurry. We can bring people together to have conversations about our communities. We have a chance to give hope to our neighbors who want a safer world.

With our hands tied by preemption laws, which allow state laws to preempt what local governments can do, and the challenges of South Carolina’s deep red political climate, we’ve had to get creative and develop relationships across the spectrum of viewpoints around gun violence to be successful.

Columbia launched the “Lock It Up Campaign” to increase safe firearm storage. We launched a gun safety campaign with help from the police department and community groups. We handed out informational materials and gun locks to help address unintentional injuries and deaths caused by firearms. The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 89% of unintentional shooting deaths of children happen in the home, when children play with loaded guns.

We ran out of gunlocks within an hour of the campaign’s success. Our state gun armory took notice and donated another 150 locks and helped us spread the word. The campaign that we ran was not going to solve all of the problem of gun violence, but it made it clear that our city would do its part. And that was important to our citizens.

Next, I led efforts to pass the first law in South Carolina to require citizens in the city to report a lost or stolen gun within 24 hours of knowing the gun is gone, given that South Carolina is third in the country for guns stolen out of vehicles.


The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Keeping the Kids Safe in our City, Protecting the Children, and Ending Homelessness in Kansas City

A PhD student in public health, Aditi Bussells is a councilwoman in Columbia, South Carolina. South Asian women have never before been elected to local government in South Carolina.

Two years ago, Kansas City lost 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while sleeping, after a shooter opened fire on his father’s home. Thousands of other children should be alive, especially Black and brown children, taken too soon by gun violence in our country.

In Kansas City we have made great strides in the area of housing access. The Kansas City Housing Trust Fund and the bond measure to come before voters next month will create several thousand more affordable housing units. We’ve also launched Zero KC, a plan to end homelessness in our city in five years.

In 2020, my administration sued Jimenez Arms, a gun manufacturer that provided guns to felons, allowing illegal guns to flood our streets and causing significant harm to our community. But the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a deficient investigation before granting a new license to the operators of Jimenez Arms. Because of ATF’s refusal to act, we sued the agency, too, and eventually shut down Jimenez Arms, keeping their weapons of war off our streets.

In this fall’s midterm elections, vote for people who care about your kids’ lives. If your candidate cannot ensure your children will be safe at school every day, or ensure you’ll be safe going to the grocery store, question whether they are the best candidate for your community.

Keeping people in our cities alive is more important than anything and is not about rhetoric. We aren’t failing if people are dying preventable deaths.


The quiet base of the proverbial iceberg: gun violence in the U.S. comes at a time when criminal and social justice costs are skyrocketing

The mayor of Kansas City, a Democrat, is chairman of the US Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee, as well as co-chair of Everytown for Gun Safety’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Loved ones are not unscathed. Mental health disorders in the family of survivors have increased in the year following the survivor’s injury.

Survivors of gun violence face not only the pain of the physical injury, but a 51% increase in mental health disorders and 85% increase in substance use disorders. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more are included in the former. Alcohol and drugs can cause addiction to the pain of the gunshot wound, which is what the latter includes.

These effects persist at least a year after injury. While the world has moved on – at times to the next mass shooting – survivors are still learning how to walk again, battling demons to go outside again and suffering through their personal, slow-moving tragedies out of the public eye. This is the quiet base of the proverbial iceberg – not the tip that captivates attention.

The economic toll is severely undercounted. Employers lose an estimated $535 million in revenue and productivity each year, with the rate of employees and dependents getting shot rising four-fold from 2007 to 2020. Add that to quality-of-life costs to victims and families, police and criminal justice costs, and health care spending, gun violence as a whole is estimated to cost the US $557 billion each year, or roughly 2.6% of the nation’s economy.


How do we keep ourselves safe in the firearms industry, and how to protect ourselves in law enforcement? A case study of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

The voice of the business community is important for public health. Indeed, the private sector has been a partner in public health before, from addressing the tobacco epidemic, to combating the opioid epidemic, to expanding health insurance.

Cheng admits that diversifying the customer base leads to a stronger business. “If you want to look at the firearms industry from a business perspective. Sure, right? Diversifying your demographic is good for the bottom line. The accusation that gun companies put their profits over people is not what the industry is about. The industry is about providing people with the firearm to protect themselves if they choose to do so.”

For 35 years, I’ve worn a uniform for Ohio’s Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. I moved up the ranks after starting as a young officer. Over the years, I’ve worked as a self-defense instructor, trained officers on firearm safety and ran the corrections training academy for the Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement officers must complete countless hours of firearm training prior to being certified – and even we are less accurate in a crisis situation. I’m 95% accurate on a good day, when I’m stationary in front of a target. Despite all my training, my skill level will go down even after loud noises, sirens, and darkness are introduced. And the likelihood that I, or any trained officer, will hit something we don’t intend to hit goes up. This has been known in law enforcement for decades.

Today, the state of Ohio allows virtually anyone 21 years of age or older to conceal carry a firearm without a license that requires a background check to determine any criminal records. The Sheriff of Hamilton County is not responsible for people who carry a concealed weapon. I withdrew 200 concealed carry permits from those who were charged with crimes, including domestic violence or assault. I can not do that, and those 200 people are free to carry without being watched by law enforcement.

Ohio residents should have the opportunity to vote on age limits and strict background checks for anyone who is purchasing a firearm and for those who conceal carry.

How to keep ourselves safe is one thing we are worried about, as is our own training. We are going to keep an accounting of what goes wrong, point out what could have been prevented and pay attention. We will continue to offer and encourage licenses and training despite the law.

As citizens of this great nation we have a responsibility to prevent gun violence. I will continue to speak out for sensible gun legislation. Anyone who is able to talk to lawmakers needs to do so as well.

The Case for a Static, Legitimate and Responsible Police: Why Guns are Not Used in Crimes and Why We Shouldn’t Use them

The first woman elected to serve in her position is the Sheriff of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Charmenia McGuffey.

Third, liberals have focused too much on banning assault weapons rather than on the whole panoply of interventions that may help. What we call assault rifles, which we call guns used in crimes and only a small share of suicides, account for less than 7 percent of guns used in crimes and only a small share of suicides. There are weapons in California that are technically legal despite being banned in California, yet manufacturers immediately designed and began selling weapons that are almost the same as those banned in California.

The new assault weapon ban would not affect 20 million or more similar rifles already in circulation, even if it were possible to get one through the Senate. The last assault weapon ban, from 1994 to 2004, didn’t slow the sale of such weapons (because of bad definitions) and may have been counterproductive by turning them in some circles into icons of American manhood. Indeed, there are probably now more assault rifles in private hands in the United States than in the armories of the U.S. military. We liberals have become champion marketers for the firearms manufacturers.

We should have been more evidence-driven. One problem with gun research today is that it’s frequently pursued by people with strong agendas, either pro-gun or anti-gun. Liberals sometimes leap on poorly designed studies if they support our conclusions, in ways that discredit our side. Liberal impulses have sometimes been to delegitimize policing because of a history of racism and abuses, but some police strategies such as focused deterrence, targeting those most likely to use illegal guns, have reduced violence.

To understand these patterns, imagine growing up a young man on Chicago’s West Side, in the predominantly Black community of Austin — as one of us did. In Chicago the median age for a homicide victim is between 24 and 28.

The area of Austin is in the way of de-industrialization. Unemployment and poverty are very common. It still has some of the best houses in the city, but empty lots and boarded-up stores are becoming more and more common.

Chicago’s Drug Overdoses and the “Heroin Highway”: How Many Chicagons Live and Work: Why Are Chicago Schools the Worst Cities?

The rate of drug overdoses is among the highest in the city — particularly near the Eisenhower Expressway, connecting Chicago’s downtown to the suburbs, which is otherwise known as the “heroin highway.”

Different population groups are lifted out of poverty by the federal safety net, as we can see. Social Security cuts senior citizen poverty rates by 75%. Single-parent families benefit from reductions in poverty of 38% through programs that support them. The safety net lifted only half of working age men out of poverty.

Perhaps there was a time when the assumption that able-bodied young men would always be in the workforce made sense. There is no conclusive evidence that this is the case anymore.

When we see how many young people don’t go to school in Greece or Italy, we ask ourselves if there is something wrong with the labor market in those countries.

Next, look at the failure of the city’s public schools to prepare students for their futures in the future. In the 1980s, then-US Secretary of Education Bill Bennett famously called Chicago’s schools “the worst in the country,” due in part to consistent underfunding by the state of Illinois.

The manufacturing industry of Chicago used to provide a middle-class wage for those with all levels of education. In the 1950s, Chicago produced as much steel as the whole of Great Britain. The city has steel mills, but they are mostly silent and abandoned today.

Our schools have gotten better in terms of graduation rates, but only around one in five students, and only one in ten Black male students, reaches proficiency in reading and math by 11th grade. Many are still sad places.

Some of the lowest test scores in the country can be found at Austin’s Douglass Academy High School. Originally it was meant to serve 1,200 students, but it is now serving 60. It feels like a ghost town.) Still, Douglass’ alumni are thrown into the competition for professional and service-sector jobs that now dominate the economy — without the skills needed to compete.

CVI programs, among other things, try to connect people at elevated risk for gun violence involvement (most often, young men) to a variety of programs — like employment and social support — that a growing body of evidence shows might help substantially reduce the number of shootings in our cities. CVI programs are available to young and able-bodied out-of-work men. But cities already have enormous difficulty bearing the costs of supportive CVI services on their own.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched an ambitious jobs program to deal with the impact of the Great Depression. Some 90 years later, we may need a similar commitment from the federal government to recognize the broader set of supports needed in cities across the US to address today’s challenges.

The current social safety net is a relic of outdated assumptions that are having a real-world impact on our streets. With the surge in gun violence devastating communities all across the country, isn’t it time to revisit some of these assumptions from the past?

The 22-year-old from mainland China is an immigrant and he walked past the Trump flag, past the rifles and headed to the glass case displaying handguns. He wasn’t a big fan of guns but after he saw the gun store website in Chinese, he wanted to know more about it.

“I speak Mandarin and Cantonese. They can speak their mother tongue to me. I will try to explain to them about the law and about the safety of firearms,” said Liu.

The new business hopes to reach the Asian American population in the suburbs east of Los Angeles. A few minutes drive from Monterey Park, the store sits above a Chinese restaurant. The mass shooting in that majority-Asian community last month is the reason why He sought to get a gun license.

Asian American buyers make up a small percentage of overall gun sales in the US. In 2021, a Pew Research Center survey found 10% of Asian adults reported they personally owned a gun and another 10% said they live in a household with a gun owner. Thirty-six percent of White adults said they own a gun with another 11% saying they live with a gun owner.

He said that he was afraid in his house. The Monterey Park shooting that killed 11 people was said to have been the result of a domestic dispute. He, who is not a native English speaker, said, “I think if you have gun, I have gun. You are afraid of me. So, it’s safe.”

He was given a handgun by Liu, who told him in Mandarin how a new gun owner should live and train with a deadly weapon. He said he would think about it and promised to come back.

Their Asian American gun community was the scene of target practice by Ha, Bumi and Sargentini at Chris Cheng’s private gun range near Santa Cruz.

He took that message to the 2015 meeting of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association, delivering a speech titled, “Diversity: The Next Big Opportunity.” Cheng told the participants that there is an opportunity for them to promote the Second Amendment, to promote hunting and sports shooting to this new demographic and make them a multigenerational customer and lifelong Second Amendment advocate. The industry should pay attention to diversity by targeting messages to ethnic groups and featuring people of color in marketing.

Cheng said that he is a diversity and inclusion advocate no matter where he is, including Silicon Valley where he works.

Cheng was on History Channel’s show “Top Shot”. At the start of the series, he was an amateur gun owner with no formal training. He won a $100,000 prize and a contract with a gun seller after he beat 17 professional marksmen on the show. That moved him from a life in tech to what he now calls civil rights advocacy in the firearms community.

Cheng’s message caught the attention of the Violence Policy Center, a non-profit educational organization that approaches gun violence from a public health perspective.

The Violence Policy Center’s executive director Josh Sugarmann says that Chris Cheng is an ambassador and salesman at best. The organization included Cheng in a 2021 analysis titled, “How the Firearms Industry Markets Guns to Asian Americans.”

Marketing efforts by the gun industry to get in front of a new audience is head on. Older White men have been the primary buyers of the gun industry. They are dying off. To borrow a phrase in the tobacco industry, the industry is not finding replacement shooters to take their place.”

Asian American communities have experienced the lowest levels of harm from gun violence due to fewer guns in the community.

“We have not had guns on the brain, which, when people have problems, makes turning to firearms as a possible solution that much likelier,” said Pan. “Bringing guns into the AAPI community will only increase gun violence in our community. That was the case in Monterey Park. The idea of guns captured the mind of an elderly Asian man. He decided they were a good idea and brought them into the community. Look at what happened.

Sargentini asked why you are trying to disarm an entire group of people. “It’s like saying women who can read are threatening, right? Other women, women of color, minorities, the disenfranchised – this is an opportunity for them to learn protection of self, learn a new skill. We want to be good people and be good citizens.”

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