Gun violence ravages many neighborhoods across this country. Many in large cities like Philadelphia are frustrated by the scourge of gun violence that claims too many young lives and profoundly affects so many others. Entire neighborhoods are traumatized by gunfire that occurs far too frequently. Children in some of these neighborhoods witness incidents that no one should ever see. For them, the looming threat of trauma shapes their view of life. Philadelphia police officers routinely rush young men to trauma centers with gunshot wounds, which is something that is not done in many cities. And because video footage has become such an integral part of criminal investigations, detectives are placed in the unenviable position of viewing footage of violent incidents over and over again.
These experiences take a toll on all of us.
Because of advances in policing and trauma care, homicides have been reduced significantly in this country over the last 30 years. Most departments employ intelligence-led policing strategies to reduce the incidence of retaliatory shootings that can often perpetuate the cycle of violence in many neighborhoods. The willingness of police leaders to be open to new strategies, and to use evidence based policing methods, are helping to make cities a little safer every year.
While police do play a vital role in reducing gun violence, the ability to make a sustainable impact on this problem will require more than just elaborate policing strategies. Significant and sustainable progress is made when we impact contributing factors that transcend policing. There are cities in this country that are confronted with social ills such as staggering poverty and unemployment rates, segregated or polarized neighborhoods, mental illness and drugs, all of which are intensified by the proliferation of handguns.
In order to have a long-term impact on this intractable problem, we must realize that gun violence touches all of us and take some responsibility in its demise. Although some people may not recognize the direct impact, we all are affected in some way. Gun violence impacts our safety, our sense of safety, our businesses, our schools, our stability, and surely our future.
Gun violence affects us all.
Infographic: Deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history
While many things need to be done to eradicate this problem, it is imperative that we break the cycle of poverty, as well as disparities that sometimes exist in schools, job opportunities, and the criminal justice system. These disparities, as well as countless others, impact generations of young people in this country. All of us should work to make a difference in young lives before they are caught in the throes of gun violence. The nurturing and guidance from a parent, teacher or mentor is vital in a child’s development. Compassionate treatment in daily life is critical for healthy development in youth. These are things some of us take for granted. Equally important is providing economic opportunities thru apprenticeships and other job training programs.
When we realize as a nation, that gun violence impacts all of us, maybe collaborative efforts will be made to put an end to the carnage.
Richard Ross is the police commissioner of Philadelphia.