With Gun Violence Soaring, Churches March for Peace
When the City of Oakland experienced its one hundredth gun homicide in September, the City Council declared a public health emergency. Since then, the toll has risen to 119 shooting deaths, just shy of the 120 shooting deaths reported for all of 2020.
Oakland is not alone in experiencing an uptick in shooting deaths and gun crime. So far, there have been 38,908 gun violence deaths in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. 17, 986 of them were homicides, a staggering 20,922 were suicides. 620 were mass shootings, while 24 were mass murders. Fire arms and ammunition sales have soared in 2020 and 2021, up 65% from 2019, according to CNN.
Gun crime had been on a steady decline from 2012 – 2019. Ceasefire, the City of Oakland’s violence reduction strategy, had been credited with the reduction in shootings and homicides in Oakland during that period. Ceasefire is a data-driven strategy that partners with law enforcement, social services, and community groups to reduce violence and intervene in potentially violent outcomes. Causes for the increase in shootings are difficult to determine. Statistically, these crimes predominantly impact lower-income brown and black communities. Poverty, lack of employment, racism, and the pandemic are all offered by various experts as potential contributors.
Faith in Action East Bay organized a “Ceasefire Walk” on Friday evening in East Oakland, hosted by First Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. About fifty walkers, from ten congregations participated in the half mile walk through the Webster neighborhood, carrying signs and candles. The event is intended to create a public display of unity against violence and for peace. Several First Church members participated in the walk, including Pastor Matt Prinz.