Public Health Experts Offer Solutions at Annual National Gun Violence Prevention Summit

ROAR Staff

January 15, 2024

Four people sitting on a stage with Gun Violence Prevention Summit banners behind them

The 9th Annual National Gun Violence Prevention Summit, hosted by The Center for American Progress, was held on December 5 and 6, 2023. ROAR’s Executive Director, Lydia Watts, participated in a panel session titled Preventing Harm: Public Health Solutions for Violence Prevention

In addition to Watts, the panel included: 

  • Lisa Geller, Senior Advisor for Implementation and Co-Lead of the National ERPO Resource Center, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solution;
  • Traci Kurtzer, OBGYN Medical Director Trauma Informed Care and Education at Northwestern Medicine; Doctors for America Community Health and Prevention; and
  • Reggie Moore, Director of Community Safety Policy and Engagement, Medical College of Wisconsin.

The panel members shared the public health perspective and approach to gun violence prevention in the field, such as Blueprint for Peace in Milwaukee, Illinois’ firearm restraining orders, and ROAR’s victim services in Baltimore City, Maryland.

As Watts explained, ”Folks who have experienced gun violence are demonized when they experience this kind of victimization.  . . . these folks are in grievous harm—they’ve either lost a loved one, or they’re in very serious risk of their life, and they’re being treated [by the criminal justice system] as if they are the problem.”

“Not only do we know [from research] that once somebody has been shot, they’re at much higher risk of being shot again, but they’re also at a much higher risk of shooting somebody. So victim services can be that protective factor that can hopefully address a lot of those risk factors that . . . are rooted in racism and white supremacy.”

“When I see systemic issues coming up [ROAR is able to take legal action when appropriate]. Because [ROAR is] seeing so many survivors each and every day, and [we are] hearing the repeated occurrences of their property being seized by the police—that’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The police are saying they have a right to this evidence, which is not evidence at all. What is your cell phone evidence of? What are your keys evidence of? What are your shoes evidence of?”

“That’s why victim services are so critical to this public health crisis. Because there’s a role that we all can play in elevating the experiences of survivors and getting that before the policymakers. . . By sharing these stories,  we can raise their voices and use that research to illustrate the full range of travesties that are happening across this country in every single community.”

Watch the full video of the session here:

In summarizing this summit, Watts said, “I came away from this event with hope for the future. Particularly because of what was shared by Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox, the two new Deputy Directors of President Biden’s recently launched White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Jackson and Wilcom both come from the gun violence prevention field and are themselves survivors of gun violence. I’m glad our movement finally has a voice in the White House.”

“There was enthusiasm and optimism at the summit for real progress at the national level and a strong push for renewed funding. So much of gun violence prevention funding across the country post-covid came from the Trump-era American Rescue Plan, which is ending. Now the conversation is focused on building a bridge to sustained funding.”