PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — According to the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey, there are just under 400 million guns in circulation in America. Many of the crimes associated with guns are often captured on cell phones and surveillance cameras.
That was the case in September during a shootout at a house party on Killam Avenue in Norfolk. Cameras captured the booming sounds of a barrage of gunfire that involved at least one rifle. According to his death certificate, a rifle was used to kill 24-year-old Zabre Miller.
Months later, on what would have been Miller’s 25th birthday, his mother, Alkivette Cooper, reflected on the Killam Ave violence that killed her son and a student from Norfolk State University.
“It’s mind-boggling that kids are walking around with rifles. I don’t know what to think but I know that something needs to change,” said Cooper.
Just over the last year, there have been a number of mass shootings in the Commonwealth. In March of 2022, Virginian-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins and two others were shot and killed outside a Norfolk bar, 4 were killed in June at a home on Maple Ave. in Portsmouth, three University of Virginia football players were gunned down on a bus in early November, and just before Thanksgiving 6 employees were killed by an armed colleague at a Walmart store in Chesapeake.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a group that took on smoking, obesity, and traffic fatalities, is now taking on gun violence. Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now the president of the 86-year-old foundation.
“We address it by recognizing that if we treat it like a public health problem like we do with motor vehicle fatalities, we can bring down the rates of gun deaths without taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens to have guns do hunting and the things that some people want to do,” said Besser in a recent Zoom interview.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far just under 44-thousand people have been killed by gun violence -all causes- this year.
After 21 people, 19 of them children, were killed in a Uvalde, Texas school and 10 were killed in a racist attack in Buffalo, New York, President Joe Biden signed new gun control legislation into law. It was the first such law in 30 years.
“I think that if we look at policies the vast majority of people in our country support, we could do a lot to reduce the impact of gun violence. This isn’t a question about banning guns it’s about putting in place safe policies to protect children and to protect adults from something that is purely an American phenomenon- this level of gun violence and gun death,” Besser said.