Preventing Gun Violence: Evidence-Based Optimism in a Realistic World

Faculty; Policy; Public Health; Social Work

The Brown School organized a symposium, Nov. 12, to initiate a community dialogue about gun violence as a public health issue. Participants at the event reviewed research and evidence to inform gun violence prevention and response practices. View a photo album from the event.

Harold Pollack, PhD, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, provided the keynote address, which highlighted socio-economic and school-based approaches and strategies for reducing gun violence and why they have or have not worked.

The talk, which was followed by a panel discussion, was part of “Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis,” a yearlong initiative at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The goal of this entire initiative is to assess what we know, and what we need to know to prevent gun violence in our region,” said Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School and the William E. Gordon Distinguished University Professor. “Most importantly, we want to convert what we know about prevention into sustained action.”

“Dr. Pollack’s expertise and views about preventing gun violence set the stage for an important discussion by community leaders in St. Louis,” Lawlor said.

Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and co-director of the university’s Crime Lab.

Panelists were:

  • Col. Samuel Dotson, chief of police, Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis;
  • Lyda Krewson, alderwoman, Ward 28, City of St. Louis;
  • Bonita Jamison, assistant superintendent for Student, School & Community Support Services, Riverview Gardens School District; and
  • Mariah Stewart, reporter, The Huffington Post and St. Louis American

Attendees included students, faculty, and representatives from area nonprofit agencies as well as surrounding school districts and city and county court systems. All had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion by asking questions of the speaker and panelists and adding their thoughts in writing to sign boards asking “What do we need to know to prevent gun violence?” and “What do we need to do to prevent gun violence?”

Many of these comments, written on Post-it notes, revolved around programs and funding for youth interventions and partnerships with parents, teachers and businesses to provide educational, recreational and vocational opportunities for children and teenagers. “Engage in collaborative efforts on a community level,” suggested one note. Another suggested adding “mentoring programs in areas where violence occurs.”

This event is part of a series of events and discussions designed to explore three key themes regarding gun violence: What we know, what we need to know and what to do about this critical issue.

The yearlong initiative brings together scholars, medical professionals, community leaders and citizens to take a hard look at the serious, tragic public health consequences of gun violence in America.

Upcoming events include Guns, Suicide, and Safety, Feb. 15, and Childhood Trauma and Gun Violence, March 7, both moderated by Brown School professors. Learn more about upcoming events.