April 29, 2021
(PORTLAND, Ore.) — As mass shootings and hate crimes rise across the country, politicians are working on local and federal levels to combat gun violence. President Biden announced his plan on April 7, which includes six steps to reduce deadly use of guns. On the same day, the Portland City Council followed with a similar plan on a smaller scale.
Portland has seen a huge increase in gun violence in the last year. While the White House’s six steps includes directing $5 billion toward creating community sourced violence intervention programs across the country, Portland has approved a $6 million proposal that earmarks $1.4 million to hiring unarmed park rangers. In addition, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, “$4.1 million would go to grants for nonprofits working with the city’s Office of Violence Prevention to reduce gun violence.”
Although the council heard from a panel including the Multnomah County Chair and the Police Chief, among others, there was not an opportunity for members of the public to speak on the issue.
Local activist and writer Olivia Pace does not see the proposal as effective. She thinks the proposal uses “sneaky language” to create “more security on top of the cops,” in reference to the increased park ranger presence. “It just feels like it’s going to implement more terrorism of Black people,” says Pace.
As for the nonprofit outreach, Pace finds fault as well. She notes the $4.1 million worth of grants are first going to the Office of Violence Prevention, and that group will then decide which nonprofits are given the extra funding. She feels the group is too involved with local law enforcement.
Pace thinks the spike in gun violence is due to issues that have been exacerbated in the last year—increases in mental health issues, domestic abuse, poverty and the emboldening of white supremacists. She’s concerned that the commissioners’ plan doesn’t do enough to address these root causes.
The Portland Mercury reported on Portland residents who are most affected by gun violence, particularly gang members. Mike Jackson, a mentor for young men involved with Portland gangs, told the Mercury, “We’re not looking to pacify this problem, we want to stop it. It’s bigger than just adding more police to the streets.”
Jackson feels investment in more mentorship and peer support programs, rather than “top-down solutions” is a crucial component in the effort to curb gun violence.