America’s gun violence crisis is not isolated from all of America’s other crises. Though the root causes of violence are not clear cut, and parsing correlation and causation remains an ever-present difficulty, it’s impossible to deny that gun violence is linked to staggering class divides, unequal application of the law, access to health care, rising extremism, the climate crisis, a culture of racism, and the erosion of (lowercase-d) democratic ideals. All of those issues are related to one another, too — in other words, widespread gun violence is just a symptom of the larger American crisis.

But that also means solutions to the gun violence epidemic can be found in solutions to America’s other problems. In a recent appearance on the podcast “Our Body Politic,” The Trace’s public health reporter, Fairriona Magee, discussed why it’s important to analyze the points at which gun violence intersects with other issues — and how this examination can birth creative ideas to make life in America more livable. I spoke with Magee this week about some of these solutions. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Trace: I was really intrigued by your comments on the podcast about seemingly small actions that studies have associated with reducing gun violence. Can you tell me about some of these strategies you’ve come across?

Farriona Magee: Researchers have found that increasing green space by doing something relatively inexpensive like planting trees has led to a reduction in crime and shootings in underinvested communities. Other research has looked at acts such as home renovation, like how installing new windows led to a decrease in crime in cities like Philadelphia. Research like this reiterates that many solutions around gun violence are interconnected with other structural or public health issues. 

There are also examples of communities getting together to combat gun violence in ways that are more nontraditional. I have seen examples of communities having chess meets, dance battles, or boxing tournaments to lower instances of violence in their respective communities. Some of the alternative methods previously mentioned are more community-centered, and there isn’t a lot of research on them, but I think what they illustrate is that some things that seem relatively small can have a profound impact on gun violence.

How do these strategies vary between different communities? What’s applicable in cities, for example, isn’t necessarily applicable in rural areas.

Some of the strategies I mentioned in the prior response were from research that was conducted in more densely populated communities or urban areas. While something like home renovation can definitely have an impact on rural communities, what we see is that many communities have very specific needs in relation to health depending on their population and demographics. Rural communities are often more sparsely populated, so strategies like limiting asphalt may not work. Techniques that address things like health care access, loneliness, or transportation can be important in these communities. But that also shows why it is important to have robust research, so researchers and community members have reliable data when developing strategies that are tailored to fit specific populations.

As you’ve written, gun violence intersects with essentially all of the dominant issues in America today. If you’ll allow me to go big picture: How does viewing gun violence through the lens of public health help you identify these points, and how does it help identify solutions?

Using a public health lens is important because it allows the solutions that are developed to focus on prevention, protection, and more systemic change. Public health is really about the science of protecting and improving the health of people and the community that they live in. Looking at gun violence through a public health lens means that prevention efforts are centered around research and data, so that solutions ranging from policy recommendations to supplying resources are backed by science, and more focused and fair. 

It also allows us to look at certain issues through a health disparity lens, to help identify how social, structural, and economic inequities impact certain communities. This in turn allows solutions to be more focused on the risk factors these individuals and their communities are being exposed to, and what can be done to address that exposure.

There is still a lot of research that needs to be done on how gun violence impacts some of the vulnerable populations that have been mentioned throughout my responses.

From Our Team

Which States Have Universal Gun Background Checks?: Though federal legislation to strengthen requirements hasn’t passed, many individual states have plugged some of the gaps.

What Do Gun Violence Interruption Programs Need to Succeed?: Chico Tillmon, the director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s new leadership academy, discusses the challenges facing community-based organizations.

What’s Next for Philadelphia’s Gun Violence Prevention Grants?: The city awarded 31 community groups between $100,000 and $1 million each. Not all participants are reapplying.

What to Know This Week

A new CDC report shows that homicides and suicides among young people jumped sharply during the pandemic; the homicide rate for teenagers reached its highest point in nearly 25 years. Guns were used in the vast majority of homicides among 10- to 24-year-olds in 2021. [Associated Press

Baltimore has exceeded its threshold for an unacceptable amount of violence — 300 murders — for the past eight years. As police boast about the number of illegal guns they’ve seized and the city sends the department ever more money, what does the data show about law enforcement’s efficacy in reducing violent crime? [The Real News Network

The number of Black people living in Chicago has been declining for decades, and the loss is most severe in majority-Black communities on the South and West sides. In the places where the Black population fell the most, rates of violent crime increased faster than in the rest of the city, and today, homicide and nonfatal shooting rates in those areas are collectively five times higher than in the rest of Chicago. [WBEZ]

Republicans in the U.S. House, along with two Democrats, passed a resolution to roll back the ATF’s new pistol brace regulations; President Joe Biden has already promised a veto if such legislation lands on his desk. Meanwhile, three House Democrats are launching an effort to trigger a vote on gun reform measures, including proposals that would ban assault weapons and strengthen background check requirements. [Roll Call/Truthout]

In high schools across the country, graduation ceremonies are increasingly taking on a new meaning: They’re not only a rite of passage for young people entering adulthood, but also a memorial for students who were killed, often by gunfire, before they could accept their diploma. [The Guardian]

In response to the attack at Santa Fe High School, Texas lawmakers approved legislation to prevent violence in schools by establishing “threat assessment” teams. But the plan has been plagued by confusion over how the teams operate and what they do to intervene when a child exhibits worrying behavior. [The Texas Tribune

New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced her resignation after a year and a half on the job. Under her leadership, the NYPD focused on getting guns off the street, and, at the mayor’s urging, revived controversial anti-gun units that a federal monitor recently found frequently conduct unlawful stops. [The New York Times/Gothamist

The GOP has a history of positioning itself as the party of “law and order.” But the violent rhetoric former President Donald Trump’s allies have employed in response to his federal indictment shows that Republicans are increasingly shifting away from that reputation. [The Washington Post

Sequeerity, a queer women of color-led security company in the Twin Cities, is filling a void in the industry: The firm focuses on community-centered safety, and its staffers create a friendlier form of security by using de-escalation techniques and carrying flashlights rather than guns at events. [Star Tribune]

Studies on the rise and influence of American gun culture usually focus on powerful organizations like the NRA or gun manufacturers. Sociologist Jennifer Carlson argues that there’s just as much to learn from everyday firearm enthusiasts. [The New Republic

Cities and counties nationwide have revived youth curfews over the past year. For young people experiencing homelessness, these measures can have a “domino effect,” leading to increased contact with the criminal legal system that creates barriers to finding stable housing and employment. [Streetlight]

Religious leaders say houses of worship have become a new front line in America’s violence epidemic. Now, they’re grappling with how they can remain welcoming to strangers while keeping congregants safe. [CNN]

In Memoriam

Quincy Reese, 16, was about to be tapped to become a captain of Crenshaw High School’s basketball team. He was a dedicated, standout athlete and leader: He would hit the gym after practice, and he was unafraid to push his teammates. Reese was shot and killed in Los Angeles last weekend. He was a hard worker — he played baseball, too, and kept up a 3.4 GPA — but he was also always ready to crack a joke, the Los Angeles Times reported, and drew in his teammates with his humor. About 50 small colleges already had an eye on him, his coach said. “He’d just put a smile on your face,” a former teammate said. “He just had a good spirit, very funny, and easy to talk to.”

We Recommend

What a Teacher’s Little Red Book Taught the World About the Tulsa Massacre: “Much of what the world knows about the Tulsa massacre, one of the most consequential events of state-sanctioned racial violence and displacement in America’s history, started with the work of one woman. Although Mary E. Jones Parrish’s name has made a resurgence in recent history, the impact of her book about the disaster still isn’t fully recognized — a situation one of her descendants is looking to change.” [The 19th]

Pull Quote

“We’re losing our kids too early, they’re not even able to finish high school, and that has an impact on the student body as a whole.”

— Chalinda Hatcher, whose daughter Shamara Young was shot and killed in Oakland in 2021, after taking Shamara’s place in her high school graduation ceremony, to The Guardian