Root Causes Of Violence and Various Responses

“We want to establish a relationship between the police and the community that’s not anchored in a warrior mentality, but in a guardian mentality. If you have a warrior mentality, you tend to view everyone in the community as an enemy combatant. If you view everyone in the community as an enemy combatant, that’s when tragedy happens. But if you have a guardian mentality, it’s a partnership with the community where you’re there to promote safety for everyone.” – U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021, the most recent year for which statistics are available, than in any other year on record. Gun violence claimed the lives of at least 133 people per day, on average.

The violence is continuing apace in 2023, which has seen more than 15,000 lives lost to gun violence already, with more than one mass shooting for every day of the year and at least 370 shot by police.

Economic instability triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of online hate and malicious misinformation, and tragically lax gun laws have created a deadly crisis of violence that calls for community-based solution-finding. All over the nation, new ideas and progressive thoughts are flowering from local communities. Toward a New Age of Community Safety, the National Urban League’s framework for violence prevention and gun reform, is a compilation of these resources and tools for advocacy that address root causes and bring together communities and like-minded partners.

Release of the report coincided with the Safe & Just Communities Summit, a two-day convening of the National Urban League and John Jay College of Criminal Justice to provide a comprehensive, community centered framework for safe communities that are resourced, just, healthy, and restored.

It is our hope that this framework provides inspiration to the growing movement for change led by communities through partnership between neighbors, with government, and with nongovernmental allies. Through the legacy of the Urban League movement, we are fortified and firm in our belief that through the frustration of these trying times that we can find solutions and strategies for building stronger, safer, and collaborative communities.
During our conversation, Jeffries noted that he is working to several elements of the National Urban League’s 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Community Trust, specifically bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and requiring officers to intervene when excessive force is being used.

He also reiterated his support for another National Urban League priority, a ban on assault weapons. As we noted in our new report, there are at least 4 million assault weapons among the 400 million firearms currently in circulation in the United States.

Approximately 400 million firearms are currently in circulation in the U.S., including 4 million assault rifles, with civilian gun ownership is rising in the U.S. The flood of guns into U.S. communities in 2020 led to the largest single-year increase in gun homicides on record. Gun violence reports grew by 30% during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most states experiencing a spike.

Community-led violence intervention systems are growing in popularity, from the White House to Governor’s Offices to municipal governments because they address the root issues of violence and provide alternatives to police response.

When we released the 21 Pillars in 2021, we highlighted the importance of engaging with communities directly, investing in them, and developing strategies for alternative responses to crisis. The framework outlined in Toward a New Age of Community Safety provides greater context, offering regional comparisons of various community-led movements, programs, and projects to serve as inspiration for collaboration and partnership no matter where in the country you are.

Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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