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Racism and Guns, and the Threat to our Communities


Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

We are sickened, heartbroken, and angry that 10 people were killed in a Buffalo grocery store on Saturday in an act of racist violence. A mass shooting at a California church the next day was also a racist attack.

The toxic mix of white supremacy and violence has no place in our society. This weekend’s shootings recall recent appalling killings in Atlanta, Charleston, and Pittsburgh.

The Buffalo shooter’s writings are also a harsh reminder that our country's history of structural and institutional racism is not just history. Our society is increasingly normalizing hate and allowing it to propagate. At the same time, loose gun laws make it easier for white supremacists to get weapons and harm people of color. At the intersection of racism and gun violence is a public health crisis, and the Bloomberg School community will continue to support research, communication, and advocacy that address these urgent issues.

At the Bloomberg School’s Center for Gun Violence Solutions, our faculty and staff are working to disarm hate by identifying a range of policies and programs that we hope can lead to lasting change and save lives. The evidence is clear: Gun policy and violence prevention work to improve public health and safety. The Center has identified solutions at the local, state, and federal levels that can reduce gun violence.

The Center works with Black-led nonprofit organizations doing vital work in this space. Cities United supports a national network of mayors to create safe, healthy, and hopeful communities for young Black men and boys and their families and offers this resource on reimagining public safety. DC Justice Lab develops evidence-based, community-driven, and racially just public safety solutions in Washington, DC. The Community Justice Action Fund addresses root causes of gun violence by centering the experience and expertise of people most impacted by it.

This fall, the Center will convene national experts to identify and develop tools to address the intersection of lethal hate crimes and the American gun culture, including policies that make it harder for white supremacists to possess and use firearms in targeted or racially motivated hate crimes. The symposium will identify and produce evidence-informed policies, programming, and strategies to advance social change to urgently address our nation’s deadly legacy of racist violence.

We can all continue to educate ourselves and others. The Center’s online course Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change, the Solutions section on its website, its report on 2020 gun deaths, and our recent Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health magazine issue are excellent resources to review and share.

White supremacy culture, racism, and lax gun laws are perilous threats. As deep as these problems run, and as daunting as they feel, we know there are solutions that can save lives. We will fight for these solutions because we believe in a future where everyone can live free from violence and fear.

With hope and determination,

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor

Joel I. Bolling, MA
Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Joshua M. Horwitz, JD
Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions

Daniel Webster, ScD ’91, MPH
Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions