Anne Arundel County parents gathered at the Michael E. Busch Library on Thursday to share their fears for the safety of their children following a series of mass shootings across the country in recent weeks.
The rally was the second annual community meeting of the Gun Violence Response Team, which was created to discuss solutions to what many describe as a public health crisis. The team, assembled by County Executive Steuart Pittman two years ago, will release an annual report on June 14.
The 30 or so attendees, many of whom wore orange as part of a nationwide effort over the weekend to draw attention to gun violence, expressed exhaustion at near-daily reports of Americans being shot dead and urged county leaders to do more to protect loved ones and stem the tide of violence.
One of the parents, Kristen Caminiti, mother of four children aged 3 to 12, said she was worried about the psychological impact active shooting exercises had on her children and wanted society to impose more parents to prepare and prevent mass shootings.
“We know we are causing harm by increasing anxiety and depression in our children,” Caminiti said. “We support a culture of fear. … I think we really need to look at the answer.
Although the gun violence may seem overwhelming, the county is taking initiatives to make the community safer, health office Nilesh Kalyanaraman said. He reminded meeting participants that public health campaigns have been successful in reducing smoking and automobile-related deaths.
“There are tools to reduce violence,” he said.
These initiatives include hospital-based interventions such as connecting victims of gun violence with mental health resources and street outreach programs that place conflict mediators on the ground in communities with rates of higher homicides and provide support, job training and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The reunion followed two high-profile mass shootings that killed 10 people at a grocery store story in Buffalo, New York and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Pittman said the community meeting was scheduled long before these incidents, but the time seemed appropriate to discuss solutions to the growing threat of gun violence. News of another mass shooting broke Wednesday when a man opened fire at a doctor’s office in Tulsa, Oklahoma with an AR-15 rifle, killing two doctors and two others before shooting. suicide.
Although counties are blocked from passing gun access legislation by state law, Pittman told a press conference Tuesday that he was impressed with what the team at intervention has done, such as the creation of community resource toolkits. The county council passed laws inspired by the response team, including one requiring gun stores to distribute literature on suicide and conflict resolution and another requiring gun stores to install certain protective equipment to prevent burglaries.
Both laws are currently the subject of legal challenges.
“People work at the state level, but we work at the county level,” Pittman said. “There’s so much that hasn’t been done and there’s so much potential that can be done.”
The Gun Violence Response Team was created in 2020 and is modeled after the County Opioid Response Team, a group each county is required to develop by state law. The interagency group includes representatives from the Anne Arundel and Annapolis Police Departments, the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency and Emergency Management Office, and several other health and human service agencies. .
In 2021, the group held virtual seminars for residents to discuss their concerns and suggestions on how to address gun violence.
The county panel grew out of Anne Arundel County’s 2019 Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which was launched following the 2018 mass shooting at the Capital Gazette office where a Laurel with a longstanding grievance against the publication exploded in the editorial staff. Five people were killed in this attack: John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
In the city of Annapolis, the response team is working to bring in national experts to analyze gun violence issues in the city and strategize public health initiatives that can be created to address violence. .
Armed violence is not just a matter of easy access and political discourse; it has become ingrained in American culture, said Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson.
“It has become a way of solving problems. It’s a fascination,” Jackson said. “We have to talk to our children. We need to petition our elected officials.
It’s important not to become numb to the dead and hopeless for solutions, Jackson said.
“People are dying one at a time,” he said. “They don’t die statistically.”
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Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley compared the response here to that of his home country of Australia, where government officials created restrictive gun ownership legislation following shootings of mass. He would like to see this approach adopted in the United States
“It’s not an easy thing to take on,” Buckley said. “On one side there is a group of people who say we need more weapons and on the other side, probably on this side, there are people who say we need less.”
Friday is National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Saturday and Sunday are Wear Orange weekend to recognize gun violence. However, the county decided to observe the initiative on Thursday in order to get as many residents as possible to attend the meeting, said Jeff Amoros, spokesman for Pittman.
Since 2020, firearm suicides, suicide attempts and homicides in the county have all increased, said Bella Young, health planner for the county health department. Suicides or attempted suicides by firearm increased by 3% from 2020 to 2021, while homicides by firearm increased by 11% during the same period.
Black residents have been more affected by gun violence in the county, Young said. Although black residents make up only 17% of the county, they account for 68% of firearm homicides and 64% of firearm injuries. White residents, meanwhile, have been more affected by firearm suicides. Although white residents make up 67% of the county’s population, 88% of firearm suicides and attempted suicides are by whites.
While the disproportionate number of homicides among young black men may be due to issues of lack of educational opportunities, as well as economic opportunities, Young said, preliminary research suggests that the number of suicides could be high among middle-aged white men due to mental illness. health sigma preventing them from seeking help and mental health issues among veteran communities.
“We have a long way to go, but we are starting, we are growing, we are building,” Kalyanaraman said.