‘Urgent need for action’: U.S. gun violence surges


(NewsNation) —  A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a spike in gun violence nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic. The agency says 79 percent of homicides involved guns in 2020, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

The CDC’s Wednesday report said 2020 had the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years.

The spotlight on violence across the country is in one of its biggest cities: Chicago. In the Windy City, at least 21 people have been shot since Monday, with 194 homicides so far this year.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pointing fingers at opposing parties. Democrats are calling for more restrictions surrounding guns, and Republicans are saying gun control isn’t the answer.

The violence has also reached to downtown Indianapolis, where four people, including two teens, were recently shot.

What’s the solution? Is it a case of too many guns, not enough police, or something else? The Rev. Charles Harrison, board president of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, says it’s a combination of several factors.

“I think it’s a combination of several things that I think has led to the increase in violence that we’re seeing across the country. Certainly, the easy access to unlawful guns is a major problem in large cities all across the country. I think the other thing that we’re seeing is that a rise in interpersonal conflicts that are leading to violence, where beefs and arguments that people are having with one another are now leading to people being shot and stabbed and killed.

“In my 23 years of working on the streets, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in that in Indianapolis. I’m hearing the same kind of stories from leaders all across the country, in cities where we’re seeing surging violence at record breaking levels,” Harrison said.

Harrison believes it takes a village to bring about change when it comes to violence in communities, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. One strategy that has brought success in his own city has been working with both police and ex-offenders to build a community law enforcement partnership with at-risk youth. Another successful method: Trying to get down to the root causes of specific conflicts.

“We believe that it takes a village to do that. This is a multi-layer problem that we’re facing in urban violence, and there is no one silver bullet. You need everyone involved to help deal with the issues of poverty, broken families, poor education, high unemployment, around individuals that are most likely to be involved in violence,” Harrison said.

For his community, Harrison says connecting clergy and ex-offenders with young people and showing them a way out of violence can be successful.

“Really talk to them — It’s really going to lead in two directions: Either you’re going to end up in prison if you keep living this gangster lifestyle, be involved in drug trafficking, you’re going to be arrested or you’re going to be the next victim,” Harrison said. “I think part of what we tried to do is to give them viable options of things that they can do in life and be successful, and to provide a way out for them.

“I think that’s why it’s important for us to be on the street, to be a counterbalance to what they’re hearing from drug dealers and gang members and others that are trying to pull them in the opposite direction. I think if we can continue to do that on a much larger scale in cities across the country, then I think we’re going to have success in reducing the level of violence that we’re seeing that is disproportionately impacting young men of color, particularly Black males in this country.”

The CDC’s director said the staggering new statistics underscore an urgent need for action to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths.

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