June is Gun Violence Awareness Month. While the terrible and growing number of high-profile mass shootings continues to make news, these events represent just a fraction of the toll that gun violence extracts. Community-level shootings, acts of intimate partner violence, and suicides comprise most gun violence incidents in this country.
These occurrences rarely receive much publicity, both because of their frequency and the communities they impact the most.
That is why in March 2023, FCNL brought hundreds of young advocates to Washington, D.C., for our Spring Lobby Weekend. Together they lobbied Congress to invest in violence interrupter programs—community-based programs that use peacebuilding approaches to stop violence on the ground before it happens.
These programs are finding success in cities around the United States. One violence interrupter—Greg Marshburn of Safe Streets Baltimore—told us about his work, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share his story with you. Here’s some of what Greg shared with us:
Gun violence is personal to me and my community. I have been shot nine times. I have lain on the ground with life running out of me.
This may be hard to read. It was harder to live.
In my past, all I knew was violence and crime. Now I work on the frontlines of my neighborhood as a violence interrupter in Baltimore, MD. I am putting myself directly in the middle of conflict to stop the spread of violence.
I have seen this approach work. I have witnessed harm prevented, lives changed, and violence mediated by community members without the use of guns or the involvement of a militarized police force.
I want my community to be a place where people can live without the constant threat of gun violence. This is what motivates me in my role as a violence interrupter. It is my hope that together we can take the peacebuilding approaches being employed by groups like mine and expand them to more places throughout the nation.
At times, it can feel impossible to reverse the tide of gun violence in this country. But community violence interrupter programs are working to break cycles of grief and loss in cities across this nation. With just a small investment from Congress, we can grow these efforts and do more to make our communities safer.