Decreasing the Prevalence of Gun-Related Deaths and Injuries in Urban Communities
A Research Brief by: Kashay Webb
Every day 88 Americans die from gunshot wounds as a result of suicide or homicide and each year 30,000 patients are hospitalized for gunshot wounds; 2,500 of those patients die in the hospital. When considering race and ethnicity, among U.S. males ages 15-24 years, homicide is the leading cause of death for Blacks and the second leading cause of death for Hispanics; nine out of 10 of those deaths result from gunfire. In 2015, 369 people were killed in mass shootings, while almost 6,000 Black men were murdered with guns. Although Black men make up only 6% of the population, they represent more than one half of gun homicide victims. Gun violence is a health equity issue that disproportionately affects persons of color in low-income, urban communities. Effective interventions for gun violence in these communities are lacking in part due to a disparity in research on gun violence.
Primary models used to prevent and reduce gun violence in the U.S. rely heavily on law enforcement, do not necessarily lead to long-lasting social change, and are often costly to sustain. Up until more recent times, congress has discouraged research into gun violence, specifically gunshot wounds (Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 and Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012). Although research is not abundant on gun violence in urban communities, there have been interventions and models developed with the intent to decrease the prevalence of gun violence. The first is Project Longevity, a deterrence strategy that brings together law enforcement, social services, and community members to meet with members of violent street gangs at program call-ins to leverage group dynamics and curb violence. The implementation of Project Longevity in New Haven, Connecticut, was associated with a reduction of nearly five GMI shootings and homicides per month. Another is the Cure Violence model, repeated in various cities, which uses the normative power of the environment to stop the transmission of violence. This model has mixed findings depending on community, but it is potentially cost-efficient, and it places less demand on the political and administrative resources of law enforcement and the larger criminal justice system. Lastly, urban blight remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lots has been found to be a cost-beneficial solution to firearm violence in US cities.
To best address the inequity of gun violence, a new intervention that synthesizes the three aforementioned interventions should be adopted. This new intervention would produce long-term, cost-effective, high-impact change, while also addressing some of the root causes of gun violence. I recommend increased funding for researchers and organizations such as the CDC and NIH to find best practices for decreasing gun related deaths and injuries. Research efforts should also not be solely focused on mass shootings since urban communities are exposed to and experience a disproportionate amount of gun violence.
I would like to thank Dr. Ebbin Dotson, Mr. Christopher Clarke and Ms. Sharonda Simmons for their unwavering support and feedback during the research process.