Addressing the Epidemic of Gun Violence

L-R: Joni Novosel, Center for Healthier Communities; Albert Melena, San Fernando Valley Partnership; Paul Carrillo, Crossroads; Anthony Ortiz Luis, Valley Care Community Consortium. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Seeking to address the epidemic of gun violence, the Board of Supervisors voted to evaluate potential ordinances for restricting the availability of firearms and for strengthening gun control regulations, as well as to consider creating a new agency to coordinate violence prevention strategies.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“We’ve had enough moments of silence, of praying for slain co-workers, school children and neighbors,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, principal author of the motion. “We need to be taking every possible action and refuse to be satisfied by anything short of a comprehensive approach to this public health crisis that addresses not only gun violence but child and elder abuse, and domestic and intimate partner violence. We want to prepare a comprehensive plan to ensure that every man, woman, and child in this county is free from violence.”

Every year, about 30,000 people nationwide die as a result of gun violence, and 85,000 people are injured. In Los Angeles County, firearms kill an average of at least three people every day.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“It is imperative that we broaden the conversation beyond just tightening regulations for firearms and gun safety,” said the motion’s co-author, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We must take a comprehensive approach – including looking at the problem from a public health perspective – to help our communities break the patterns that ultimately result in acts of violence. Our work must encompass stricter gun laws as well as a range of violence prevention strategies.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that 100 people were killed in mass shootings in Parkland, Florida; Sutherland Springs, Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada, just in the last five months. In the US, 7,000 children under age 18 are wounded or killed by gunshots every year. Firearms are the third leading cause of death among those ages 1-17. These statistics, however, do not even begin to address the psychological trauma inflicted on families and communities.

Patti Giggans, Peace Over Violence, testifies in support of the motion. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

“Regulating guns and curbing gun violence remains a divisive issue but we must prevail in developing common-sense and innovative policies because – make no mistake – gun violence is a public health crisis,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Following the mass shooting of San Bernardino County public health employees at a Christmas Party in December 2015, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion asking for a report on gun violence prevention regulations. The report, released on June 2017, found that several local governments in California have adopted constitutional gun control regulations that are stronger than those in Los Angeles County. It also discovered that various County departments have a range of violence prevention initiatives, but these efforts are not coordinated.

Barbara King-Wilson, with Mothers Demanding Action, testifies in support of the motion. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

In their motion, Board Chair Kuehl and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas wrote, “Establishing a single Office of Violence Prevention that is responsible for coordinating the County’s myriad violence prevention programs can be a first step towards the County’s adoption of a more strategic approach to preventing gun violence in our County. Such an office will also be able to help the County identify the gaps in our current array of violence prevention programs.”

Several people testified in support of the motion.“We applaud the County for taking the initiative to explore how to reduce the number of guns on the street,” said Paul Carillo, executive director of the nonprofit Southern California Crossroads.“We also know from personal and professional experience that reducing violence requires changing the mindset of those who live in violence-impacted communities.”

“I’m here to endorse this big idea to look at how millions of people can live together without doing intentional harm to each other,” added Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence. “I’m also here to express support for it being comprehensive and not just about guns and gangs. It’s so important to including domestic violence, sexual assault, and other intersectional aspects of violence.”