Think of gun violence like a disease, lawmakers urge | WYPR

Think of gun violence like a disease, lawmakers urge

Feb 5, 2018

Safe Streets workers at a celebration in 2015.
Credit Baltimore City Health Department

Some state legislators who represent Baltimore in Annapolis are trying to increase state funding for programs designed to prevent gun violence before it happens.  The officials compared gun violence to a contagious disease at a press conference announcing the legislation Monday in South Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood.

The legislation authorizes a $5 million grant to provide new funding for existing programs, such as Safe Streets and Shock Trauma’s Violence Intervention Program, but also for new programs that use tactics proven effective in stopping violence before it occurs.

The officials who spoke Monday, including Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen and Del. Brooke Lierman, who represents South Baltimore and is sponsoring the bill, said Maryland ought to be thinking about gun violence as a public health issue.

“The more a person is exposed to violence, the more likely they are to be involved in future incidents, either as a victim or a perpetrator,” Lierman said. “The violence spreads like a disease.”

But the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which would administer the grant, has focused its crime-fighting resources on what Lierman referred to as violence “suppression-based” efforts — things like policing that react to violence after it happens.

“We don’t have money that’s dedicated exclusively to public-health proven approaches to reducing gun violence, and that’s what we need,” she said.