January 16, 2020

BLOG: Examining The Obscured Victims of Gun Violence

March For Our Lives Georgetown (MFOLGU), in conjunction with other Georgetown University student clubs, hosted a panel event this past November entitled “Only in America: Examining the Everyday Toll of Gun Violence.” 

Water bottle displays a sticker that reads "End Gun Violence Together."
Water bottle displays a sticker that reads "End Gun Violence Together."

March For Our Lives Georgetown (MFOLGU), in conjunction with other Georgetown University clubs, hosted a panel event in November entitled “Only in America: Examining the Everyday Toll of Gun Violence.” Centered on legislation at both the state and federal levels, the event began with opening remarks from actors working within these different spheres: Washington DC’s very own mayor, Muriel Bowser, and Senator Chris Murphy. It was followed by a discussion moderated by MFOLGU’s Political Affairs Director Stefan Sujansky (SFS ’22) with panelists Joe Sakran, the Director of Emergency General Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Igor Volsky, the Director of Guns Down America and author of Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns,David Chipman, the Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords Law Center and former Alcohol Tobacco Firearms agent, and Helisa Cruz, the State Director for March For Our Lives DC. 

The panelists’ differing backgrounds allowed for a passionate, multifaceted discussion on gun control. The panelists were in agreement that mass shootings are over-sensationalized to such an extent that other prevalent gun violence issues are disregarded. As Sakran explained, mass shootings account for less than two percent of incidences in the gun violence epidemic. Although gun violence has historically been an issue in black and brown communities, the issue only came to the forefront of the national conversation when white suburban schools were affected. DC native Helisa Cruz decried this reaction, stating, “It seems like the media only cares when white kids die.” 

Mistrust of law enforcement within communities of color further exacerbates gun violence issues. Critiquing Mayor Bowser’s policies of over-policing, Cruz stated, “We’re not going to want to call the police if we know that [when] the police show somebody’s going to be beaten, and somebody’s going to die, or somebody’s going to go to jail.” David Chipman echoed this sentiment, stating, “People don’t join gangs to cause crime, people join gangs because it is unsafe in their community.” He believes “we have to provide safety in an equitable and fair way.” 

However, no one noted the particularly powerful implications of gun control in relation to violence against women, particularly women in marginalized communities. In an average month, 52 women are fatally shot by an intimate partner. In addition, if the abuser has access to a gun, fatal injury is five times more likely. In comparison to white women, black women are twice as likely to be shot and killed by an intimate partner. The disproportionate effects of gun-related intimate partner violence on women of color, particularly Native American, Black, and Hispanic women, are caused by structural disadvantages, including a warranted lack of trust in the criminal justice system. 

Senator Murphy emphasized the shifting priorities of the American electorate: 26 incumbents in the House of Representatives with an A rating from the NRA were ousted in favor of progressive gun law candidates in 2018. Hopefully real change will be implemented, including funding for research on the realities of gun violence in America. Furthermore, bills that support background checks and tighten loopholes in existing laws need to be passed on the federal and state level, and existing laws need to be implemented more fully on the state and local level. In addition to gun control legislation, our society's values need to be restructured so human lives are valued over corporate profits. Although the discussion does need to shift from sensationalized mass shootings to the everyday damage of gun violence, the shift must also include the still obscured victims of gun violence: women in marginalized communities. 

This post was prepared by Mariah Uustal (SFS’22) as part of the HoyasForShe Student Fellowship.