Gun violence: Our city’s public health crisis 

  • mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
Each year, approximately 33,000 people are killed by guns nationwide. And 78 percent of the time those affected are ages 15 to 24. African-Americans are nine times more likely to be the victim of a gun homicide than whites. Should we simply accept this fate or change public policies to save lives?

If a disease were to kill more than 33,000 Americans, we would call together a team of the best epidemiologists to find a cure. Why should gun violence be treated differently? We have lost 24 San Franciscans this year, and we must approach the citywide problem of gun violence as we would any other public health crisis.

I am proud to have worked with leaders of the faith community and with law enforcement to develop solutions to reduce this violence. In the last 15 months, we have removed over 650 guns from the streets through successful gun buyback programs. I authored and passed legislation to ban high-capacity, lethal ammunition.

I have hosted many job fairs and supported the work of the Community Resource Network and Wraparound project through funding from our city’s budget. We will not stop working to make San Francisco a safer, better place for everyone.

With all we have done so far, people are still being killed and are affected by the trauma of gun violence almost daily. I know we can do more.

I introduced the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force because we cannot simply hope that the tragedy of the last shooting will prevent the next. In fact, studies have proven that it is just the opposite. Like a contagious, infectious disease, the previous shooting indicates the next.

According to the National Institute of Justice, a successful intervention will have elements of federal-local law enforcement collaboration, community involvement, targeted intervention tactics and continuous program evaluation. The proposed Task Force reflects exactly this approach.

The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force will include representatives from the Human Services Agency, the Police Department, school district, the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Public Health. These representatives will have specific qualifications, including work with at-risk youths and mental health experience.

Most importantly, this task force will include members of the community from each district highlighting the problem of gun violence as a citywide epidemic and not specific to the Bayview district as many reports indicate.

The Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee formed in 2005 was a good first step in addressing the problem, but in order for real change to happen, the broader community must be actively involved and focused on developing real solutions.

The proposed task force will bring a more collaborative and transparent effort to address the causes of these acts and help put an end to cyclical gun violence. Concertedly, this task force will coordinate regular community programs and work to identify at-risk youths, who can eventually end up as perpetrators of these acts.

I will continue to work with the school board to address specific issues affecting our youth, such as broken homes, poverty, racism and absent parents. Instead of taking the “everything approach” which often yields little results, the efforts of this group will be purposefully focused on the specific issues that are proven to be the biggest contributors to gun violence.

The very day The San Francisco Examiner story came out [“Cohen’s gun task force questioned,” Aug. 7], my opponents issued a press release calling for their own Stop The Violence in The Bayview photo opportunity.

Their flagrant and insincere use of tragedy in the Bayview for their own political gain is exacerbating the problems rather than working with me, the mayor, Police Chief Greg Suhr and others to create and implement real solutions.

We have experienced too much death, trauma and hurt to remain idle. We have rallied, yelled and shed many tears about this issue. We must translate those frustrations into actions and solutions.

Using proven measures that have worked in other cities to reduce gun violence, we can indeed do the same here.

Malia Cohen is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 10.

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Malia Cohen

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