WRITTEN BY JOE PAUL, LARRP Vice President of Network Partnerships & Government Relations
In 2020, the death of George Floyd launched an unprecedented demand for policy reforms and transparency in law enforcement. Communities, citizens, and activists united in a strategic and sustained call to divert law enforcement funding toward community prevention and intervention programs.
We marched for George Floyd, but can we stand for the hundreds of neighbors who are dying each day from unnecessary gun violence? Can we bring the same energy that mobilized calls for police reform to the communities where folks are dying at unprecedented rates?
At the same time, gun violence and homicides have spiked in LA County: between 2019 and 2021 This pattern is a recipe for disaster as we head toward the summer months which typically witness spikes in gun violence. These crimes disproportionately impact the Black community: while African-Americans make up 14% of the population, they represent more than half of the victims of gun violence (FBI). In fact, gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-34 years (Centers for Disease Control).
As part of our launch of the Community Safety Committee, LARRP spent April at events that were focused on calls for accountability and transparency to the issue of gun violence:
- April 5: LA District Attorney Black Clergy Press Conference to address rising homicide rates in LA County
- April 8-9: A convening on gun violence and gang intervention sponsored by CA State Assemblymember Mike Gipson
- April 19: A call with Governor Newsom to discuss violence intervention and prevention funding for small organizations
- April 25: Californians for Safety and Justice conference on victims and survivors of crime
- April 27: A meeting with LA County Sheriff Villanueva to express support for victims and for solving homicides
- April 29: Participation in the 30th Anniversary of the Watts Gang Truce with LA District Attorney George Gascon and Watts community leaders
- April 30: Participation in the “east side” 30th Anniversary of the LA riots gang truce with United We Stand Up, Pastor Shep Crawford of Experience Christian Ministries, and LA Councilmember Curren Price
As I listened to the testimonies and stories of crime victims – mothers who have lost sons, men who survived gunshot wounds, fathers who regret scarring their families and communities with violence – I was reminded that there is no room for polarizing politics or opinions when it comes to death. To make our communities safer, we must apply the same passion, pressure, and purpose directed at police reforms to the communities that are suffering from gun violence. As LARRP delves deeper into issues of community safety, it is becoming clear that there is no reentry or reform for murder: a life lost is another purpose that will never be revealed. Thus we must find a way to work actively to stem the tide of this tragedy.