In mid-February, we reported on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision to declare gun violence in the District as a public health crisis. She also announced her plan to assemble an emergency operations center to address the deadly surge in gun violence and appointed Linda Harllee Harper as D.C.’s first gun violence prevention director.

While we applauded the mayor’s decision, we questioned why it had taken her so long to act with the initiative’s first target being Anacostia given city officials admitting that it was common knowledge that 2 percent of all blocks in the city (in the above mentioned Southeast community) were the site of 41 percent of all gunshot-related crimes last year.

In fact, although overall violent crime declined in 2020, gun violence rose with 922 people shot – a 33 percent increase from 2019 and with 198 murders – a 19 percent increase. A closer look reveals that most murder victims in 2020 were Black (95 percent) with Black men accounting for 81 percent of all victims and Black women, 15 percent.

“This is a level of violence that we haven’t seen in more than a decade,” Bowser said. “And the homicide trends are disturbing . . . We know that we must act and we must act differently.”

Bowser’s commitment to taking immediate action and her recognition that a different strategy must be both devised and employed should now be heeded by the nation’s leaders in Congress.

After two massacres in less than a week in Boulder and Atlanta, many Americans remain in shock while the debate on gun control has once again dominated conversations from hidden cul-de-sacs to Capitol Hill. COVID-19 may have been in the headlines for the past year but mass shootings were still occurring and in large numbers. Ignorance is not always bliss!

Date provided by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that catalogs gun violence in the U.S., reveals that 104 mass shootings have occurred in 29 states plus the District in 2021 so far with 120 people killed and more than 380 injured. (Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed in a single incident not including the shooter).

In 2021, we’ve continued where we left off in 2020 during which there were 611 mass shootings – the highest number since the Gun Violence Archive began tracking them in 2014.

President Biden, speaking to the nation on March 23 after the Colorado shooting, said, “I don’t need to wait one more minute, let alone an hour, to take common steps that will save lives in the future. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again. We got it done when I was in the Senate . . . we should do it again.”

In his illuminating study on America’s transformation from the right to arms in colonial America to today’s gun-control debate, “Armed in America,” historian and legal scholar Patrick J. Charles asserts that in today’s “golden age of gun rights,” gun rights have become both politicized and normalized.

But is it “normal” for a nation to witness seven mass shootings – in Boulder, Atlanta, Stockton (Calif.), Gresham (Oregon), Houston, Dallas and Philadelphia – in just seven days across the U.S.?

This is no longer a political issue for debate. As Bowser declared about the District, gun violence is now a public health crisis in America, too. How many more lives must be lost until drastic changes are made?

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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