The nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization is stepping up efforts to address the scourge of recent shootings across the country as part of a new initiative unveiled exclusively by ABC News on Monday.
Everytown for Gun Safety is delivering millions of dollars in grants and providing support to local organizations that aim to reduce gun crimes by tapping into communities most impacted by firearms. The new initiative, known as the Everytown Community Safety Fund, is dedicating $25 million over five years to gun violence prevention programs. The first million is set to be distributed across organizations next month.
"It's an urgent moment," said Michael-Sean Spence, Everytown's director of community safety initiatives who is leading the rollout of the new initiative. "We're in the middle of a public health crisis -- one that has been brewing for a number of years and has really taken off over the last year, year and a half.”
The rate of homicides with a firearm is nearly 25 times higher in the U.S. compared to similar economically developed countries, according to a 2015 study published in the journal of Preventive Medicine. More recently, 2020 marked the highest number of firearm deaths in at least 20 years, according to Britannica, the group behind the famed encyclopedia, and the Gun Violence Archive.
On a recent week in July, a joint analysis by GVA and ABC News found that 2.4 people were killed and 5.5 people were wounded every hour.
"The trends we're seeing today don't approach the '90s levels of gun homicides that we fortunately were able to reverse,” Spence told ABC News. “But they are some of the highest numbers we have seen since the early 2000s, and we've also seen a prolonged, persistent spike."
The funds from Everytown will support 100 local intervention programs, building on its original list of 60 programs funded by the organization over the past two years.
"There are a number of factors that drive gun violence. One is the lack of opportunity,” Spence said. “Many of these programs, once they've identified individuals, can put them into workforce development programs and connect them with other opportunities to change their life."
One of the groups set to receive funding is No More Red Dots, which runs a handful of gun violence prevention programs in Louisville, Kentucky. The organization maintains a database of high-risk individuals in the area and works to prevent them from engaging in future shootings.
Led by Dr. Eddie Woods, who has more than 20 years of experience in community safety, No More Red Dots has deep roots in Louisville. Some of the organization's programs include an artist’s workshop and basketball league that are designed to build the skills and interests of at-risk youth and provide them with mentorship opportunities.
“We've been around forever, so a lot of the young people's parents, and maybe in some cases grandparents, were in our group sessions back in the day,” Woods told ABC News. “So we kind of got a feel for the culture in some families -- the personalities of some families.”
The hyper-local formula appears to be moving the community in a positive direction. Thousands of kids have gone through the program, Woods said, and more than 115 have gone from engaging in dangerous activity in the streets to obtaining a college education.