Date: October 2014

Originally Published: Huffington Post

It pains me to hear the news that so many New Yorkers were shot — some fatally — within recent days. My prayers for comfort, peace and healing are with the family of each of the victims of these horrific incidents. I’m also curious about the national response to Ebola with a passionate, intentional and political will to combat this potential danger. My prayers are also with the families dealing with the deadly disease. At the same time, I must contrast that with the complete lack of national political will to deal with a very real and present pandemic: the public health crisis of gun violence.

I too am troubled to hear a third person was diagnosed with the Ebola virus in our country, especially since the victim was another health care professional fighting to save Thomas Eric Duncan’s life, who died from the disease in Dallas. While I am concerned about the hysteria many elected officials and media are trying to scare up around Ebola, I also understand and am thankful that steps are being taken to contain the virus. I wish my family, friends and community to be protected, and I applaud the federal, state and local government for rightfully placing top precautions around the Ebola virus situation. However, I hope the majority of resources are given to the countries in Africa where the problem is palpable and more dire in an area of the world that we routinely ignore.

Yet, given that gun violence kills and will kill exponentially more Americans in this country, I believe it’s time we tackle the gun violence pandemic with the same intensity and resources our country has given to combat Ebola in this country. In fact, based on recent statistics 32 Americans will die from gun violence on whatever day you are reading this. There has been a clear lack of political will from local, state and federal officials to set anti-gun violence policies and resources. And there is a deadly absence of necessary support to combat gun violence as the public health crisis it is. It’s interesting the federal government has appointed a Czar to fight an Ebola outbreak in this country, but there has never been talk of a similar position on gun violence.

Police reports show that in New York City alone, there were 28 people shot last week and 110 people shot within the past 28 days. Year-to-date, there have been 1,076 shootings in New York City, up 5.6 percent. In the United States approximately 9,000 people have died due to senseless acts of gun violence so far this year. Additionally, more Americans have died from gun violence since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School less than two years ago than the number of U.S. troops who died in the nine-year Iraq War.

“Real, concerted efforts must be made to limit shootings in our country. I’m proud that New York City has taken strong steps to tackle this pandemic directly aimed at the communities that suffer the most. By using a multi-pronged approach that treats gun violence as a public health crisis, our city has expanded efforts of the Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, which I co-chair, by placing violence-interrupter groups on the ground with wrap-around services to meet the needs of every spectrum in a community impacted by gun violence. Perhaps most importantly, several agencies are working together with NYPD on the effort coordinated from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Still, so much more needs to be done. My hope that this effort will succeed and expand in not just the City but across the states.

Similar to Mayors Against Illegal Guns which is open to Mayors throughout the country, last June during NYC’s Gun Violence Awareness Month I started the National Network to Combat Gun Violence. Membership is open to local elected officials from across the country to compare best practices, information and to increase political will. It is my hope that other local governments throughout the country adopt this and similar approaches to end gun violence at a hyper local level. Where state and federal government have failed to act, it’s my hope that local governments throughout the country will do their part to combat gun violence at a grassroots level.

All of us elected officials, media, community members, elders, parents, adults and responsible young people— must stand up after each and every shooting with sustained passion and fury so that we never allow ourselves to be sensitized to these senseless acts of violence. If we each play our role, no matter how small, we will affect change — starting with giving this deadly health crisis the attention it deserves.