By Jeremy Schroeder, Amnesty International USA Board Member
Over the weekend of April 4, while over 900 Amnesty International activists from around the country converged on Chicago for the Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting, 27 Chicago residents were victims of gun violence. And over the following weekend, 36 more Chicagoans were shot in 36 hours.
While these individual statistics are shocking, they do not convey the complex and horrific problems gun violence imposes on victims’ families, communities and the affected city at large.
As a former southwest Chicago resident, I felt the effects of gun violence firsthand. And I am hopeful that, by shining the light of human rights on gun violence in Chicago and in the rest of the United States, the attention of the world will force a concrete change on an issue that is so commonplace it doesn’t usually even make the news.
Despite the fact that countless men, women and children have been victims of gun violence, we still have not taken the necessary first steps to address this issue head on. As Amnesty International USA delves deeper into the issue of gun violence, we as a Board learned that before the U.S. can take first steps toward finding a solution with a thorough research and review of the issue, it must first overcome the opposition that refuses to even acknowledge we have a problem, let alone allow research to be conducted.
[pullquote text=”Despite the fact that countless men, women and children have been victims of gun violence, we still have not taken the necessary first steps to address this issue head on.”]In the past decade alone, the federal government has conducted almost no scientific research on how guns are obtained and misused, or what policies would effectively stop them, as Mayors Against Illegal Guns recently reported.
Law enforcement furthermore has been prohibited from sharing analyses of gun crime trace data with policymakers and the press, and a number of states have attempted to prevent doctors from talking about gun safety to people under their care. This has been due to an organized effort by the gun lobby to stop any information or research that could be used to advocate or promote gun control.
Gun violence impacts a range of human rights, from the rights to life and security of the person, to the rights to freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination. All states have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, and have a duty to take positive measures to prevent acts of violence and unlawful killings.
The issue of gun violence is complex and requires a multi-pronged solution. This is why, at our recent meeting, the Amnesty USA Board of Directors came together to sign a letter urging President Obama to create a Presidential Advisory Committee of health care providers and other stakeholders to provide recommendations on how to prevent gun deaths.
Additionally, we asked the President to advocate for:
- Reinstatement of funds to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health for research on firearm injury and prevention;
- Removing restrictions in the Affordable Care Act and other legislation that prevent data collection on gun violence prevention programs; and
- Passage of H.R. 2465, a gun violence reporting bill introduced by Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) that would require the Surgeon General to report annually to Congress on the effects of gun violence on public health and the status of actions taken to address them.
These actions will not immediately stop gun violence in Chicago or any city across the U.S., but will give us a place to start. Unfortunately, even though we live in a country whose firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries with comparable wealth and population size, we haven’t conducted extensive research as to why this is the case.
But I am proud to be a part of an organization that is pushing to take the first steps toward ending gun violence in the United States and across the globe.