The gut-wrenching violence in Connecticut has captured the attention of the nation. As we mourn the loss of life, many are asking what can be done to prevent future tragedies?
As a California foundation that has funded in the field of violence prevention for more than 20 years, we have learned lessons about steps our communities can take to save lives. In the early 1990s, health experts taught us that guns had become the leading cause of death for youth. It was against this backdrop that The California Wellness Foundation invested in a groundbreaking public health approach to preventing gun violence.
Twenty years ago, unlikely allies joined forces to urge policymakers to pass common-sense gun laws. The messengers included leaders from law enforcement, the faith community, educators, judiciary, doctors and nurses. And, that leadership also included youth who became powerful advocates. Our grantees and experts taught us that youth were disproportionately affected by the gun violence; youth were three times more likely to be victims of violence than adults.
Today, California leads the nation in gun violence prevention policies. The state has reduced its youth homicide rate by more than half since 1993 and now has one of the lowest firearm death rates in the nation. Despite our long-standing work in this area, we know much still needs to be done.
Our prayers are with the Newtown community. Then, as now, we have learned that victims and survivors are the heroes who create the change that make our communities safer. They inspire us to know that violence is not inevitable and that we can take action to prevent gun deaths.
Diana M. Bontá, R.N., Dr.P.H.
President and CEO
The California Wellness Foundation