On January 22, 2023, a mass shooting occurred in Monterey Park, CA, while the Asian American community celebrated the Lunar New Year. Ten people were killed and 10 more were sent to hospital emergency rooms. While the nation continues to respond to these events with “thoughts and prayers,” I’ve decided that I will use this — and all future mass shootings — as an opportunity to remind the JACL-AZ community that if you are feeling powerless after a mass shooting, you can do something about it. Educate yourself about the facts and help influence policy and best practices that will result in real change — and a safe America for all.
The day after the mass shooting in Uvalde, TX, on May 24, 2022, JACL National leadership issued a public statement expressing support of H.R.8, a bi-partisan bill that calls for universal background checks. I later learned that despite receiving support from 90 percent of Americans, the research suggests that universal background checks alone will not solve the crisis of gun violence in our country.
I learned this and other evidence-based facts in the online course “Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change,” offered by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
In 2020, 45,222 Americans died of firearm-related deaths, the highest total ever recorded. Additionally, firearm injury is now the leading cause of death among children. Gun violence is a public health crisis in America. Accepting this fact is an important and necessary step towards a solution, for it will change the way we think and talk about this highly-charged topic.
In the JACL community we know that words matter. This is also true in how we talk about gun violence. Because this debate is so emotional, it’s critical that we find a new vocabulary that allows us to discuss potential solutions in a civil manner. The field of public health provides these tools. For example, instead of an emphasis on “ending gun violence,” some public health officials find it more productive to use the less-charged phrase: “firearm injury prevention.”
The six-week, 18-hour course offers a wealth of evidence based research and statistics. Some highlights include:
A firearm license requirement (license-to-carry) is more effective than background checks alone.
Only 4% of firearm homicides can be traced back to someone with a diagnosed mental health issue. So, only focusing on mental health misses the mark when attempting to reduce homicides.
A greater indicator of future violence is past violence. Thus, experts recommend that restriction of firearm access should expand beyond felons to also include those convicted of violent misdemeanors.
Historically, suicide accounted for two-thirds of firearm related deaths. This trend has shifted over the last five years — in 2020 suicides accounted for 54%, while homicides accounted for 43%.
90% of those who survive a suicide attempt do not try again, thus a focus on access to firearms and mental health would have the greatest impact on reducing the number of gun-related deaths.
These are just a few of the eye-opening facts one will learn in taking the course. So, with that in mind, I encourage you to take it.
The course is free to enroll and review the content, however there is a fee if you want to receive the course certificate of completion. To encourage completion of the course, the board has created a $1,000 fund to reimburse JACL-AZ members who earn the certificate (note: we are in discussion with Coursera to receive a group discount on the current $49 certificate fee. More details to come on a potentially reduced rate for the certificate.)
To enroll, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/gun-violence
And once you complete the course, send a copy of your certificate to email@example.com for reimbursement.
On behalf of the JACL-AZ board, I thank you for doing your part to help change the way we as a nation talk and think about “firearm injury prevention.”