A new report from the CDC reveals that Black Americans are facing a crisis of gun-related homicides, resulting from personal disputes and mass shootings. According to the data released last week, gun deaths have reached their highest level in 25 years, but many of the victims are Black.
The crisis is especially concerning for young Black men and boys aged 10 to 24, compared to white men and boys of similar ages, the report states. According to NBC News, anti-gun violence advocates say the factors leading to the disturbing figures include racial hatred, lack of funding for gun violence prevention programs and disinvestment in Black communities. Community leaders also say the pandemic has exacerbated the underlying issues.
“We have to address the disease of violence and its spread,” Erica Ford, the founder of an anti-violence organization known as LIFE Camp in New York, told NBC News. “This is not an accident that only one community is impacted so viciously.”
Sasha Cotton, director of the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention, said there has been an increase in racially motivated gun violence in the last several years.
“The convergence of trauma and access to guns is what creates the lack of safety, whether it’s personal, one-to-one or small group violence or the mass shooting tragedy like we saw in Buffalo this weekend,” Cotton said. “Both of them are traumatic for the communities that are impacted. Both of them cause loss of life, and both of them have rippling effects.”
The CDC published its latest report shortly before a white gunman killed 10 people and injured three others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday.
“How many more losses of life do we have to sustain?” Cotton said. “Whether it’s in our Black and brown communities, mass shootings, suicides. At the end of the day, they all lead to a loss of life and tragedy, and guns are part of a problem that our communities and our societies just have not been willing to address.”
Cheryl Riviere, who works with a nonprofit anti-violence organization based in Baltimore, said young people are easily getting access to guns.
“We have kids who have guns that are from Afghanistan,” the managing director of community safety for Living Classrooms Foundation said. “They may not even know how to get their meal, but they are able to access guns. Where are they getting these guns from?”
Riviere said a peace advocate was shot and killed earlier this year while mediating gun violence in a neighborhood.
“We’re still feeling it,” Riviere said. “He was out working, talking to one of his participants, trying to get them on the right track.”
Pointing to the economic cost of gun violence, Riviere has proposed a boost in funding to improve infrastructure and to attract more small businesses to come to the area.
“When you have communities with high gun violence, the likelihood of people wanting to reinvest or invest in that community lessens,” Riviere said. “You go in certain neighborhoods, you have people … who are paid to clean up the blocks every day, and in communities that are plagued by gun violence, that’s not happening.”
The Build Back Better Act, which stalled in the Senate after it passed in the House last November, is one program that aims to increase investments in youth programs, as well as playground structures and mental health care. Advocates have also proposed tighter gun control policies at the federal, state and local levels.
Gun violence has become particularly concerning for the Black trans community. According to a study by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group, 75% of trans people killed in the U.S. in 2020 were killed with a gun.
“We are seeing an increasing prevalence of intimate partner violence among the TGNC (transgender and gender nonconforming) community members that has not been properly addressed,” Sean Ebony Coleman, the founder of Destination Tomorrow, said. Destination Tomorrow is an LGBTQ center with locations in the Bronx and Atlanta. “Working to develop programs and services for TGNC people experiencing this form of violence is imperative.”