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January 16, 2013

Adriana Godoy Leiss, TCWF
(818) 702-1900

Statement by Dr. Diana Bontá Regarding President Obama’s Executive Actions to Prevent Gun Violence

The California Wellness Foundation lauds President Obama’s announcement today that includes a public health approach in response to the gun violence in Newtown, Conn.

After 20 years of funding in violence prevention in California, our Foundation has seen the effectiveness of public health strategies in preventing deaths by firearms, particularly by adopting a comprehensive approach that includes funding research and data collection.

The Foundation recognizes the importance of the President’s decision to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other scientific agencies to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. From 1997 to 2004, I served as a member of the advisory committee to the director of the CDC, when restrictions on the funding of this research were implemented. Therefore, I know firsthand how important it is to allow our public health officials and policymakers to have access to this critical data to formulate effective responses to gun violence.

In addition, the President’s action will restore the ability of law enforcement and public health officials to share information with one another in firearm tracking, which is an important tool to keep our communities safe.

We believe that California’s experience in violence prevention can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. A center piece of the $120 million funding by the Foundation during the past 20 years was to make grants to organizations that pursued research and data-tracking to help form strategies that saved lives and prevented access to guns that led to killings.

With these data, California communities’ actions eventually led to a ban on Saturday night specials, the cheap, concealable guns more likely to be used in crimes at that time. The state has reduced its youth homicide rate by more than half since 1993 and has one of the lowest firearm death rates in the nation.

Based on what these and other data revealed, the Foundation launched a comprehensive violence prevention strategy, whose goal was to keep youth out of harm’s way. This includes funding:

  • prevention programs—such as mentoring and after-school programs as constructive alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime;
  • intervention services—such as alternative sentencing and restorative justice programs to intervene early with system-involved youth and provide the guidance, counseling, drug treatment and community involvement they need to avoid more serious crimes later;
  • mental health and counseling services for trauma-exposed youth living in neighborhoods plagued by violence and poverty; and
  • intensive case management, educational support and placement, job-readiness training and job placement for currently and formerly incarcerated youth as a re-entry strategy.

Our Foundation recognizes that now is the time to lift our work in this area during the last 20 years to the next level, including continuing to work with grantees, policymakers, law enforcement, community leaders, victims and their families and many others who are engaged in support of both the statewide and national efforts that prevent gun violence.

For more information, visit the following websites:

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