It Ends With Us: A Plan to Reimagine Public Safety
What will it take to create safe communities?
Everywhere we look, gun violence is decimating our families and communities. Whether it’s the mass shootings in shopping malls, concerts, schools, and places of worship, the retaliatory gun violence in urban neighborhoods haunted by the legacy of economic disinvestment, racism, and poverty, or the solitary suicides committed nationwide with increasing frequency, gun violence adds up: over 100 Americans die from it every day. 100+ lives lost every single day. We started March For Our Lives (MFOL) to say, “Not One More.”
No more school shooting drills.
No more burying loved ones.
Support It Ends With Us
This policy agenda is rooted in what our community is telling us they need to be safe. It is grounded in the perspectives of survivors of gun violence and their families. It is bolstered by robust policy analysis and conversations with a broad range of stakeholders. And it acknowledges many of the underlying forces that fuel gun violence: gun glorification, political apathy, poverty, armed supremacy, and our country’s mental health crisis.
As a youth-led movement to end the epidemic of gun violence, we believe a new reality is possible—one where we are free from gun violence in all of its forms, including state-sanctioned violence by police. Among young people, gun violence has become a top cause of death. It has many root causes, including hate, poverty, and despair. And it’s amplified by the societal belief that a gun can solve our problems. At MFOL, we know this is a deeply intersectional issue, inextricably bound with our long journey for racial justice, economic justice, immigrant rights, and the rights of our LGBTQIA+ comrades.
Just as we have reached a cultural reckoning on mass shootings in the last several years, giving our country the courage to take on the gun lobby, we have accelerated our collective awareness of the violent origins of policing in America that are still present today.
Our mission calls for something more bold and transformative than gun control alone. We call for a world re-imagined: a world where oppressive power structures are abandoned and community is embraced. A world where all human needs are met and the love of people is centered.
In order to understand our approach to taking on gun violence, we want to be clear about the forces that fuel gun violence in our country. They are gun glorification, armed supremacy, political apathy and corruption, poverty, and the national mental health crisis.
- Gun glorification is the belief embedded in our culture that power and safety are derived from guns. In this country, we put guns on a pedestal and prioritize firearm access over access to human needs. This makes guns extremely easy to access—easier than housing or medical care.
- Armed supremacy is the use of guns and the threat of gun violence to reinforce power structures, hierarchies, and status. It is how individuals or groups of people reinforce their perceived value relative to those with less power. It is how white supremacy and patriarchy survive.
- Political apathy and corruption is the gradual destruction of the democratic principle that power comes from the people. It happens when politics fails to change lived outcomes for those it’s meant to serve. Politicians use voters to gain power for themselves, but the voters get little in return. People become apathetic because they are not valued or empowered.
- Poverty is the state of not having enough material possessions, income, or resources to meet basic human needs. The communities facing the highest rates of everyday gun violence have been intentionally impoverished—systemically denied resources and opportunity by the state for generations.
- There is a national mental health crisis. While we fight to end gun violence, there is another mass-scale public health emergency happening simultaneously. Millions of Americans are struggling with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness and lack of access to mental health support and care. People with mental illness are often mischaracterized as being a threat to others, when in fact, they are at higher risk of becoming a victim of gun violence themselves, including suicide. We refuse this scapegoating.
Each of these forces is rooted in oppression. To create a society in which every person is supported and able to thrive, we must understand how these forces operate and then work to dismantle them.
This policy agenda is part of that strategy.
Every day in America, more than 100 lives are taken by the deadly epidemic of gun violence. Among young people, gun violence has become a top cause of death, second only to car accidents, and it is the leading cause of death among young men. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only further laid bare the structural inequities that contribute to violence in our communities, intensifying the need for holistic solutions to gun violence.
Violence is a complex and layered issue, but it is undeniable that the root causes of much of the violence in the United States lie in poverty, marginalization, exclusion, and glorification of guns in our culture. It is amplified by the societal belief that a gun can solve our problems.
We call for robust investment in the things that communities around the country need in order to live in safety, including community-based violence reduction programs, suicide prevention programs, domestic violence prevention programs, and mental and behavioral health service programs.
We need leaders willing to take these bold steps to address the national gun violence epidemic.
President Biden and all our elected officials must act with a fierce urgency to call this crisis what it is: a national public health emergency.
- They must acknowledge that the level of gun violence in the United States is unprecedented for a developed nation—and only bold, new solutions can move the needle on the rates of gun injuries and deaths.
- They must recognize that gun violence has many faces in our communities, from rural suicides to intimate partner violence to urban youth violence to violence driven by white supremacist ideologies. And they must commit to holding an unpatriotic gun lobby and gun industry accountable not just for weakening our nation’s gun laws, but also for illegal behavior and self-dealing that offends and contradicts America’s vast majority of responsible gun owners.
- They must allow communities to be the architects of our own solutions, and facilitating these solutions requires meeting people where they are, listening to their stories and making real investments in improving their lives.
But we cannot do this alone. We need leaders—in the White House, in Congress, and in our courts—who care about the future of our children and our nation.
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For too long, the unpatriotic gun lobby and industry have run Washington. Those days are over.
The gun lobby and industry must be held accountable for decades of illegal behavior and misguided policies intended to shield only themselves and perpetuate the proliferation of armed supremacy. We must reexamine the dangerous District of Columbia v. Heller interpretation of the Second Amendment, initiate both FEC and IRS investigations into the NRA, and fully repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
Divest from systems that cause harm and invest in solutions that create real safety.
Gun violence in America is so deeply entrenched that the state itself is a major perpetrator. To properly address gun violence in America, we must confront the ways law enforcement’s brutal targeting of communities of color, and Black people in particular, contributes to gun deaths and injuries. To do so, we must end the war on drugs, stop the school-to-prison pipeline, and dramatically reduce the scope and size of policing to replace it with new forms of public safety that work for everyone instead of a select few. We must also redefine what safety looks like for our communities. This means addressing poverty—manifested in homelessness, food scarcity, disparate access to healthcare. Our investments and advocacy efforts must center community, including programming, mutual aid, and preventative and destigmatizing work that reflects cultural competence.
It’s time for a higher standard of gun ownership.
A key piece of this roadmap is to end gun glorification by advocating and passing legislation to raise the national standards for gun ownership. This includes a national licensing and registry system that promotes responsible gun ownership; a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other weapons of war; policies to disarm gun owners who pose a harm risk; and a national gun buy-back program to reduce the estimated 265–393 million firearms in circulation by at least 30%.
Voters should face no barriers in exercising their right to be heard.
While sensible gun reforms such as gun licensing enjoy wide support across the American electorate, our democratic institutions are fraying. A fully functional democracy that works to elevate—not stifle—the voices of people over corporate interests and influential lobbies is a powerful tool for preventing gun violence and supporting community self-determination. We call for automatic voter registration, the prohibition of voter ID laws, and campaign finance reform, including overturning Citizens United. We also call for reform to our judiciary system, including increased diversity of judges, state responsibility for public safety, and increased judicial transparency and accountability.
The federal government has long proven its ability and powers when there is political will. Now is the time for action.
Young people turned out in record numbers in 2020 to support President Biden and Vice President Harris, and tipped the scales in many swing states that were crucial to victory for Democrats. In order to restore faith in government, the Biden-Harris Administration must address the unique concerns of young voters starting with a comprehensive plan to combat everyday gun violence ravaging communities nationwide, especially communities of color. To start, they must appoint at least two senior-level positions in the White House: a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) and a Director of Youth Engagement. The Director of GVP will be tasked with operationalizing agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and others which have long been structurally weakened by the gun lobby. The Director would likewise empanel a committee to study and recommend related reforms. The Director of Youth Engagement should be a young Millennial or Gen-Z, and serve on the Domestic Policy Council, advising the President and senior staff on issues of importance to young Americans. Finally, a record level of violence requires a record level of funding: at least $1 billion in emergency and discretionary agency funding must be directed towards community violence intervention programming and increased data collection and research on gun violence prevention.