The Big Picture of Gun Violence

In 2019, the CDC released a report calling attention to gun violence as a pervasive public health crisis, growing steadily over the last two decades. The effects of these firearm incidents ripple through families and entire communities causing grief, trauma, fear, and further perpetuating cycles of violence.

The report shows that nearly every person who lives in America is impacted by gun violence. Almost half (44%) of Americans today know someone who has been shot by a gun. Nearly every American will know someone who has been shot during their lifetime.

Boston has one of the lowest gun death rates among U.S. cities and is often looked to as an example of gun control and prevention. But for those of us who live in Boston neighborhoods such as Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, that’s not our Boston.

Whether through personal experience, directly knowing a victim, or persistent sounds of gunshots, it is difficult to find individuals in these neighborhoods who have not been impacted by gun violence in some way.

Since 2018, there have been over 700 shootings recorded in the city of Boston.

To dismiss the problem in Boston because of stats that are comparatively low, is to dismiss the hundreds of individuals, predominantly individuals of color, who are impacted each year by gun violence in our city.

Data visualization of two statistics: 44% of Americans know someone who has been shot by a gun; 40,000 people are killed by gun violence every year.

At the same time, the type of attention given to incidents of gun violence perpetuates stereotypes and ignores certain realities.

Despite statistics that indicate nearly 60% of firearm deaths in MA are suicides, most heavily impacting older White males in western regions of the state, gun homicides in Boston’s Black neighborhoods dominate news cycles.

When an act of street violence occurs and it makes the news cycle, we see yellow tape and police activity, often paired with voiceovers that demonize the perpetrator and victim alike, as well as the neighborhoods they live in.

These narratives flatten communities to their most tragic moments.

What the media does not show are the journeys of overcoming grief, the mutual aid extending between families, and the countless organizations and groups working tirelessly to interrupt cycles of violence and create conditions for peace.

Nor does it call adequate attention to the systemic failures that cultivate community violence—including mass incarceration, failures of the justice system, and racial disparities in education, health, and wealth. 

There are dozens of groups and organizations in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan persistently promoting peace, many of them for decades.

This includes the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and Teen Empowerment. Many of these organizations were founded by survivors of homicide victims turning their own pain into purpose.

Through their tireless efforts they build networks of support and healing, directly interrupt retaliatory violence, empower young people, and push the city to improve its prevention, intervention, and response to violence. And yet, their stories of resilience, impact, and care get left out of the dominant narratives of gun violence.

We need to interrupt sensational, racialized, and politicized narratives of gun violence. We need to restore urgency, dignity, and humanity to these narratives. We do this by coming alongside those most impacted to tell their own stories.

Data visualization of two statistics: there have been over 700 shootings in Boston in the last 4 years; 75% of shootings take place in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

This is a collective effort. We invite you to join how you can.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by gun violence and are in need of support or services, please click here for resources.