Gun violence is a public health crisis in Oklahoma. According to available data from 2016, Oklahoma suffered 19.52 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people, nearly double the national average of 11.96 per 100,000 people. According to the Tulsa Police Department, in 2016 and 2017, about 60% of suicides and almost 75% of homicides in Tulsa involved a firearm. It is unacceptable for our State Legislature to sit on the sidelines while friends, neighbors, and families all across Tulsa are torn apart by senseless gun violence.
Addressing that problem begins with understanding it. While it is heartening that the Centers for Disease Control will be able to resume research in 2020, Oklahoma’s problem is both specific to our state and immediate. We cannot wait for the CDC to get around to helping us, we must help ourselves. That is why I will work hard to establish and fund Oklahoma specific gun violence research. Until we understand the specific nuances of gun violence in Oklahoma, it is incredibly difficult to craft the specific solutions we will need. Fortunately, there are at least some measures we can take immediately.
Background checks and red flag laws have been shown to reduce gun deaths by suicide and intimate partner violence, both of which are severe problems in our state. By removing access to guns from people in mental health crisis, we can reduce the instances of suicides from spur of the moment decisions. We can also better protect victims of intimate partner violence by restricting abusers’ access to deadly weapons.
We can also lower crime overall by investing in our communities. For too long, our legislature has prioritized tax cuts and corporate profits to the detriment of the general public. I will fight to revitalize our schools, rebuild our economy, and adopt practices and policies like community policing that work with our most vulnerable communities instead of against them. By changing our priorities, we can restore hope to places long ignored by our state government and give people access to education, jobs, and resources that prevent them from resorting to unlawful activity.