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Cincinnati officials declare gun violence a public health crisis

Cincinnati officials declared gun violence a public health crisis with a unanimous vote at City Council Wednesday.

Council Member Meeka Owens introduced the resolution. She says guns are a leading cause of premature death in the United States.

"This is everything from domestic violence, to mass shootings, to suicide, to accidental shootings — all of these things matter," she said.

Although overall crime is at a 10-year low in the city, shootings have not yet dropped to pre-pandemic levels. Cincinnati tied the record for gun-related homicides last year, with 84 deaths.

Owens says the resolution is a promise to the public that the issue is a top priority.

"We are signaling that our approach has to be comprehensive, and that we are allocating resources in the right places to do that," she said. "Something else that we are signaling is that this is something that can be rooted in data and evidence-based practices and research in how we solve this issue."

Police Chief Eliot Isaac says the department has sought help from public health partners for a long time.

"But to see this become part of public policy here at Cincinnati is huge," Isaac said. "Engaging public health, it brings their research expertise. We always talk about root causes, but how can we turn that into a strategy? Being able to partner in those regards, I think, will help us turn the corner here in Cincinnati."

Victims of gun violence are disproportionately Black, making up 87% of all homicide victims in Cincinnati last year.

"When we look at social determinants of health … your zip code basically can determine your life expectancy," Owens said. "When you add on trauma, when you add on poverty, when you add on addiction, when you add on the fact that young people in brown communities are dealing with this, and then being able to try to go to school and learn, these are things that affect cognitive development."

Other cities including Washington D.C. and New York have made the same declaration.

Mayor Aftab Pureval says the resolution will not solve the problem, but it's an important first step.

"Saying that gun violence is not a law enforcement issue, it's not a social services issue, it's a public health issue not unlike the COVID pandemic, that requires all of us to be working together to solve it," Pureval said.

The public health crisis declaration has the support of all nine council members.

Read the full resolution below:

Updated: February 1, 2022 at 12:32 PM EST
Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.