Community-Based Gun Violence Prevention
A path to stop gun violence without racial profiling or traumatizing our youth
While I’ve called for a Rethinking Public Safety as a pillar of my campaign since the beginning, the issue of gun violence prevention requires special attention at this moment. I am committed to listening to and learning from the communities most harmed by gun violence, following the lead of community members and organizations who have worked on these issues for decades, and funding and proliferating community-led solutions.
Everyone deserves to feel safe regardless of skin color, ethnic background, nation of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, housing status, disability, veteran status, or citizenship status. I recognize the impacts trauma has on an entire community, as well as the healing power of coming together, and as Mayor I will decrease reliance on police for public safety and increase investments in innovative community-led, evidence-based programs to reduce gun violence. This comprehensive, 360-degree approach to Gun Violence Prevention redirects resources to community-led solutions and to city bureaus that support communities, including mental health and addiction resources.
Violence is a disease and we must adopt a public health approach to end it. That means considering violence not as a criminal justice problem in need of increased policing but one requiring holistic, community-led responses and prevention strategies. To solve this crisis, we must build and maintain healthy partnerships across governments, sectors, organizations, and social, educational and healthcare providers to focus on upstream prevention even as we address the public’s immediate safety needs. As Portland’s next mayor, my decision-making will be driven by the best available science to help us stem gun violence and address the underlying conditions from which gun violence emerges.
Gun violence is an epidemic that pervades all levels of our society, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities. Gun violence is a historic norm embedded across cultures in our society-- we’ve been taught to accept rather than eradicate it. It does not have a single root cause, but rather is the product of numerous conditions and situations over time that ultimately lead to a single measurable action: pulling the trigger. This single act results in a variety of outcomes including:
- police shootings
- mass shootings
- community violence and homicides
- family violence
Addressing gun violence entails far more than promoting firearm safety: it means addressing the root causes over the long-term, including housing insecurity, economic instability, educational disparities, environmental injustice, gentrification, toxic masculinity, and structural racism.
Past efforts, such as Portland’s rebranded Gang Enforcement Team, have been largely ineffective in reducing gun violence while they profiled and targeted Black and Brown community members. In the last year Portland, like other cities across the U.S., has experienced a startling increase in homicides. Portland has seen an uptick in gun violence which made July 2020 the deadliest month in three decades. At a time when many in our community are calling for a change in the way we address public safety concerns, Portland’s incumbent mayor has suggested he might bring back the Gun Violence Reduction Team, a racially-biased program which community organizations lobbied to defund in the last budget cycle. We must be courageous enough to envision alternative strategies. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten and that simply has not worked to protect our most vulnerable.
Following the murders of countless Black Americans by unaccountable police, including recently George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Portlanders increasingly demand progressive public safety reforms. We demand strong community oversight of policing with real, effectual accountability for offending officers as proposed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. In a time of upheaval and transformation, Portland must not revert to antiquated, racist systems when leaders have failed to embrace a comprehensive public health approach. We must invest in building new, better systems which will ultimately cost less and be more effective than our current failed system.
Gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed through multifaceted structural reforms that strengthen and stabilize communities while eliminating long-standing inequity. My Plan for Progress includes providing affordable housing, supporting tenants and ending displacement; investing in BIPOC entrepreneurship and small business ownership; fostering cohesive communities, cross-sector partnerships, and an inclusive democracy; and making investments in community infrastructure, public transportation, and green jobs.
We must reshape criminal and juvenile justice systems because Black Lives Matter. As long as Black Portlanders and Portlanders of color are disproportionately policed, arrested, charged, and jailed, our city leadership has failed, and gun violence will disportionately impact those populations. To end the cycle, I commit to tackling gun violence through a holistic approach. These proposed investments will be funded, in part, by reallocating funding previously dedicated to militarized and police-oriented responses (e.g. GVRT, SROs) toward community-oriented responses (e.g. Youth Violence Prevention and Restorative Justice programs).
The six point plan involves the following:
- Support youth, family & community
- Invest in education
- Expand trauma-informed practice
- Build an inclusive economy
- Interrupt the cycle of community violence
- Educate the public and enforce existing gun legislation
Support youth, family and community.
- Convene a Mayor’s Youth Equity Advisory Council including representatives of and in cooperation with existing youth-led organizations including Multnomah Youth Commission, Word is Bond, Raising Justice (formerly Youth Educating Police) and others, inviting student representatives from public school districts, and other youth and organizations to listen, learn, and get feedback on policies and programs.
- Assign policy director for Youth, Family & Education in the Portland Mayor’s Office to align resources, coordinate partnerships and support systems-level change for vulnerable youth and families.
- Community Health & Safety Hubs equitably distributed across neighborhoods will provide rest stops, hygiene and health facilities, and critical services for Portlanders in need. No Portlander should be far from a safe space where they can rest— free from harm, warm, dry, and with access to basic human needs. Investment in these hubs will direct critical infrastructure dollars from over-policing towards schools, libraries, and community centers to help us meet existing demand. This will also increase services for people struggling with our current housing and health crises, as well as those seeking shelter during heat waves, storms, power outages and recovering from natural and economic disasters.
- Invest in child abuse prevention by addressing the root causes. Strengthen our city’s response to food insecurity, lack of stable housing, economic stressors, intergenerational trauma, lack of physical health, and lack of mental health services.
- Strategically invest to prevent displacement for increased school stability. As we Rethink Public Safety in Portland, fund anti-displacement, rental assistance, and guaranteed income. To ensure our limited investments have the greatest impact, we must target them in neighborhoods where public schools have the highest turnover rates.
Invest in education. We must change the norms around gun culture at a young age by teaching the gravity of violence to end the glamorization of violence
- Expand civic engagement and civic participation among youth and expand opportunities to authentically integrate youth voices into policy making. Establish a Mayor’s Youth Equity Advisory Council, hold listening sessions in K-12 schools, and involve young people in planning and implementation of violence prevention efforts.
- Conflict management education must be included in all applicable city programming involving youth.
- Increase Access to high-quality, cradle-to-career STEAM education in partnership with Portland’s philanthropic, business, and civic communities.
Expand trauma-informed practice. Promote alternatives to violence and peaceful conflict management to help address the intersectional nature of trauma, social determinants of health, and violence.
- Work with our local partners in health care to respond to the needs of victims of violence and address more than physical wounds through hospital-linked violence prevention programs. Work together on educating and equipping healthcare providers on gun safety.
- Fund community education in lockdown drills in partnership with community groups and mental health professionals. Prioritize communication to reduce the trauma involved in these drills as well as ensuring accessibility to all.
- Respond to domestic and intimate partner violence with urgency and sensitivity. We must provide resources and housing for survivors of domestic violence who desire to leave a toxic relationship. We can help support their well-being through provison of temporary emergency shelters, trauma-informed care, and prompt investigation of sexual assault. We can prioritize the enforcement of restraining orders, weapons seizures, and other strategies shown to reduce and de-escalate domestic violence.
- Explore implementing a restorative justice model for certain domestic violence offenders (similar to Washington County’s Survivor Impact Panels) led by mental health professionals with input from survivors for both people convicted of DV and people who voluntarily enter the program. Washington County’s program is beneficial for both survivors and offenders while keeping the focus on rehabilitation, not punishment/incarceration. While the program does not completely exclude law enforcement, it works to center the wishes of victims with a focus on recovery rather than punishment.
- Ensure that all misdemeanor charges of Domestic Violence are reported to Oregon’s background check database to prevent domestic violence offenders from purchasing a firearm.
Build an inclusive economy for BIPOC Portlanders, and increase partnerships with local and private institutions to expand opportunities.
- Expand summer and year-round employment opportunities connecting community members to career-path jobs in partnership with business, institutional, and civic organizations.
- Prioritize the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals. Portland should invest in a job training program for formerly incarcerated individuals that reintegrates the formerly-incarcerated back with a focus on restorative justice, building on partnerships with local employers.
- Hire a Director of Small Business & Entrepreneurship to be located in the Portland Mayor’s Office, to evaluate Portland’s small business and entrepreneurship ecosystem, better align strategic partnerships and investments, and serve as a liaison between City Hall and various business organizations and cross-sector advocacy groups, citywide. Define and measure clear goals for this position to drive equity. Bottom-line streamlined support for small businesses as well as investments in data collection systems of underrepresented entrepreneurs and employers to scale up their share of the economy.
- Create a community-based small business center. Open a physical storefront outside of downtown, in a neighborhood commercial corridor, which will assist founders and entrepreneurs start and grow companies.
- Tax revenue from the cannabis industry to invest in the communities that have been decimated by prohibition, rather than increased policing of those same communities. Prioritize with policy, purse, and partnership righting these wrongs and removing barriers that more equitable and sensible practices would have never put there in the first place.
- Focus on equity in public works investments to build capacity for marginalized community members and minority-owned businesses via projects including unreinforced masonry seismic retrofits; commercial and residential green building and weatherization retrofits; waste management and recycling operations; habitat restoration and tree-planting; regenerative and sustainable food systems and associated industries.
Interrupt the cycle of community violence by fully supporting ongoing street-level responses and other proven effective youth violence prevention strategies.
- Add 5.0 FTE for Mayor’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention. Invest more heavily in upstream prevention programs like Black Male Achievement to connect youth and experienced community members with networking and employment opportunities.
- Unify problem-solving at the neighborhood scale in cooperation with the Office of Civic and Community Life. As Portlanders, we must rethink and refine our civic engagement processes to ensure we are meeting our primary goals of affordability, equity, and safety.
- Partner closely with Multnomah County and surrounding cities to ensure policy decisions are a unified effort with all voices being heard. To have a meaningful improvement in gun violence, the effort needs to be as geographically wide as possible. I will work with surrounding cities and governments to ensure that violence is not just moved outside of Portland but ends.
- Coordinate to create a Gun Violence Prevention plan across cities in the Metro area.
Educate the public, enforce and expand sensible gun legislation. Portland must work with and lead the metro region in convening and strategically aligning resources to reduce the presence and danger of guns in our community.
- Expand access to Extreme Risk Protection Orders, educating the public so EPRO’s are widely accessible, including requiring a poster detailing how they work in all City buildings. Encourage use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove guns from individuals that are at high risk of harming themselves or others. Highlight and track equity impacts, especially for BIPOC community members who may feel uncomfortable seeking assistance and/or to ensure the program is not disproportionately disarming BIPOC Portlanders.
- Direct city lobbyists to work with and credit local groups helping to further gun safety legislative efforts in Oregon’s capital for equitable statewide gun violence prevention policies. This includes measures such as ensuring safe storage of firearms, raising the minimum age to 21, imposing a waiting period to deter suicide and impulse shootings, and closing the Charleston Loophole.
- Enforce existing gun regulation legislation with an emphasis on preventing future disasters. Work with the District Attorney to hold those accountable who violate state statutes.
- Rethink Public Safety. Change the conditions of our public safety system to prevent the ongoing targeting of BIPOC Portlanders.
This plan was developed in partnership with Oregon teens who have been working on this project since middle school, as a part of March for Our Lives, and who are now ending their time in high school having seen nowhere near the progress they deserve to be safe in their schools and lives. This plan has been drafted with their direct involvement, vetted by experts on Gun Violence prevention, and BIPOC Portlanders who have faced worse incidence of violence as well as unequal enforcement of related laws. Credit to Cities United’s, “Strategic Resource for Mayors on Disrupting Community Violence and Preventing Homicides” for informing our conceptual framework. Special thanks to Penny Okamoto and Dr. Brian Gibbs for their influential work on the Denver Accord, to Roberta Philip-Robbins and the numerous thought-leaders whose work guided this policy in its development.