Gun violence should be viewed as a major public health issue and be addressed just as health issues are, attacking the root causes of the problem.
That was the view shared by Minister with responsibility for Culture, Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, as she spoke in the Senate on Wednesday, on the Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2022.
She said the traditional methods of fighting crime are long outdated and a public health model approach should be used to address the issues head-on.
“The evidence is suggesting that more comprehensive approaches now are following what is called a public health model…. What the literature is saying is that we take the notion from public health that when you are dealing with a pandemic or severe illness that you go to the root cause or the drivers of that behaviour, and introduce measures in order to be able to change and adapt behaviour at the root cause over the long term, using science and measuring,” the Government Senator explained.
She noted that a recent UN Habitat study had stressed the importance of shifting away from outdated crime-fighting models to a more contemporary approach.
“That study referenced that these approaches are outdated and that we needed to have comprehensive contemporary approaches based on, and I want to quote, ‘enhancement of urban safety and security through urban planning, design, and governance; the development of community-based approaches, to enhancing safety and security; reduction on the risk factors by focusing on groups most vulnerable to crime, and strengthening of social capital through initiatives that seek to develop the ability of individuals and communities’,” Munro-Knight said.
Making reference to New York’s Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative which saw state funding being provided for local law enforcement agencies for equipment, overtime, personnel and other strategies aimed at reducing the state’s high crime rate, the senator insisted new methods to tackle crime should use a holistic societal approach.
“What they have done in the context of this programme is also to implement a street outreach programme which works with agencies in those areas that are identified as most at-risk, to be able to deliver services, empower communities and have communities also indicate what they would like to do in the context of helping to solve crime, and for the communities themselves to be able to express a zero tolerance to crime,” Senator Munro-Knight said.
She said the root cause of most crimes and delinquency could be traced back to the home and suggested that addressing children’s anger issues and resentment has to be seen as a critical step.
“[That] as we reflect on that notion of train up that child, our child, our children, that we go back to basics and fundamentals of who we are as a society, and that we take a hard look at the values we are passing on; that we take a hard look at how we are raising our children; that we take a hard look at what it is that we are saying, what it is that we are imparting… they should not depart from it, if we impart the right thing.” (SB)