Chicago Town Hall: Gun Violence and Vulnerable Populations
The Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma is a national task force focused on expanding awareness, discourse, and public policy on gun violence trauma. Assembled under the aegis of the University of California, Irvine School of Law’s Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, the task force features a diverse collaboration of lawyers, scholars, physicians, psychologists, and advocates committed to initiating, sustaining, and acting upon this critical discourse.
The state of gun violence in the United States has reached a critical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2000 and 2014 alone, firearms accounted for nearly 470,000 fatalities. “Homicide firearm” ranked as the second leading cause of all violence-related deaths during this 14-year interval.
With each day, death by gun violence increases. For women, children, and other vulnerable populations, gun violence exacts a particularly devastating toll. Women living in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in any other high-income country. In a study examining 2010 homicide data, firearms were found to be the weapons most frequently used by males to murder females, with more than 2/3 of these homicides perpetrated by male intimates. Over the past 25 years, the number of intimate partner homicides committed via guns is higher than intimate partner homicides involving all other weapons combined. For black women, gun violence statistics reveal a distinctly distressing set of realities. In 2010, the homicide rate for black women, as committed by men, was nearly 2.5 times higher than for white women. Approximately 53% of all 2010 homicides of black women were committed using a gun.
Children are also significantly vulnerable to the effects of gun violence. In 2014, firearm homicide accounted for 46% of violence-related fatalities in children age 5-9, and 38.5% of violence-related fatalities in youths age 15-24. According to a 2009 survey sponsored by the Department of Justice, more than 22% of adolescents age 14 to 17 had witnessed a shooting during their lifetime. For black youths age 15-24, homicide is the leading cause of all incidences of death, violent and non-violent. In addition to experiencing substantial physical devastation, children—especially those multiply marginalized—often bear the psychological brunt of gun violence trauma. Whether as direct victims, firsthand witnesses, or witnesses via screen and word-of-mouth, children exposed to gun violence often suffer substantial emotional and psychological harm. As such, the recent tragedies of Philando Castile and Diamond Reynolds are best understood not only as horrors lived once, but as horrors lived over and over in the countless children who witnessed these tragedies in person, on a screen, or through conversation with friends and family.
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- Under the Gun: Chicago mother Pam Bosley discusses gun violence (video)
The Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma will host three town hall meetings across the country during the 2016-2017 academic year, starting in Chicago Sept. 22, 2016. This first town hall meeting focuses on how gun violence and trauma uniquely impact vulnerable communities, including racial minorities, children, the homeless, and individuals with mental disabilities. Other town halls will be held in Washington D.C. Nov. 1, 2016, and in Los Angeles March 6, 2017. More about the the Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma and the town halls here >
UC Irvine School of Law
Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Director, Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy
Professor Goodwin holds faculty appointments in Public Health; Criminology, Law and Society; and Gender & Sexuality Studies. She is a leading voice on the incarceration of women and girls and the trauma that results from policing and mass incarceration. Her research on these issues have resulted in meetings at the White House, a summit on women and mass incarceration, a congressional briefing, and work with women and girls most impacted by policing and violence. Her publications on these issues can be read in the Huffington Post, Texas Law Review, and California Law Review among others. She is the co-chair of the taskforce investigating gun violence and trauma.
Camiella Williams has lost 23 loved ones to gun violence. She is now a Regional Organizing Fellow at Generation Progress and an advocate for gun violence prevention in Chicago. She is a member of Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Violence Prevention Task Force, the Executive Director for Drew Sidora's Dreamakers Charity and Youth Director of the Blair Holt Memorial Foundation. She also has her own radio show on rejoice 102.3 FM, “Talk with Camiella Williams and Martinez Sutton.”
Psychologist, expert on child trauma
The Family Defense Center, Chicago
Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience as a clinician and administrator of mental health programs. The integrating theme throughout her varied work experience has been the consistent focus on access to and development of appropriate mental health care for children and their families.
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Pamela's goal is to change the hearts of youth so that another mother would not have to feel her daily pain. She offers support to parents whose children are murdered and is an outspoken voice against gun violence, inspiring articles about her in Jet magazine, Sister Sister Magazine, Loyola Mosaic Magazine, the front page of the Chicago Sun Times newspaper, a novel called “How Long Will I Cry,” and two documentaries (“Under the Gun” by Katie Couric & “Making a Killing” by BRAVE New Films) among other media.
More about Dr. Cartman >
State Senator, 16th Legislative District
A former journalist and Emmy-award nominated editor at CBS-TV, Senator Collins has used her journalism experience and communication skills to support progressive agendas that seek to create economic and social welfare policies that reduce inequality, expand opportunities and strengthen communities. As chairperson of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, Senator Collins has been leading the fight to stop mortgage foreclosures and predatory lending. Long before the national recession, she warned her colleagues and constituents about the dangers of predatory lending. Other major legislative accomplishments include the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act; the landmark Sudan Divestment Act to End Atrocities and Terrorism in the Sudan; and the Payday Loan Reform Act. Most recently, Senator Collins was honored with the Lifetime Award for Commitment to Financial Issues by Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
More about Sen. Collins >
James Gierach is a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He served as a homicide prosecutor in Chicago, Illinois. Later, Jim took on the role of an assistant state's attorney of Cook County, assigned to homicide preliminary hearing courts and Cook County Grand Jury Homicide Unit inter alia. His interest in drug policy reform is driven by the desire to prevent violence.
President & CEO to Mujeres Latinas en Accion (MUJERES)
Over the last two decades, Maria Pesqueira has become a nationally renowned leader in the areas of human service delivery, arts/culture and nonprofit management. She is a sought-after speaker addressing local, national and hemispheric audiences on topics ranging from private/nonprofit partnerships, women and family issues to health disparities, immigration reform, violence prevention and intervention. The eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants living in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, Maria at an early age became a translator, advocate, convener, and bridge for information and understanding. As President & CEO of MUJERES, she is part of a team whose mission is to empower Latinas and their families. Under her leadership, MUJERES expanded services to a growing population in the western suburbs and the organization was recently featured as a national model for strong financial management and bold leadership through the Illinois State budget crisis. More about Maria Pesqueira >
Dr. Carol TovarDr. Carolyn Tovar is a highly decorated and accomplished law enforcement professional with over 24 years of experience as a Chicago Police officer. In 2009, Dr. Tovar collaborated with over 400 community leaders, including members of government agencies and local faith-based organizations, to develop a joint task force that worked on strategies to alleviate crime related to drug and gang violence in Chicago. The joint task force initiative proved that crime in Chicago can be successfully suppressed and prevented if community needs are properly identified and addressed through effective collaboration between citizens and police. Dr. Tovar has also trained military soldiers in special security measures in terrorist prevention and is hailed for her work in preventing terrorists from entering Drake Military Base. For those efforts, she was the first civilian to be awarded the Commander's Coin.