Social and Structural Determinants of Community Firearm Violence and Community Trauma

Published date01 November 2022
AuthorShani A. L. Buggs,Nicole D. Kravitz-Wirtz,Julia J. Lund
Date01 November 2022
Subject MatterOpportunities for Gun Violence Prevention
224 ANNALS, AAPSS, 704, November 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162231173324
Social and
of Community
Violence and
The adverse impacts of community firearm violence in
the U.S. are unequally felt across geographic and vari-
ous sociodemographic segments of our population.
Researchers, government leaders, and the general
public need to contend with the various ways in which
unjust socioeconomic and political forces and systems
of power and privilege lead to differences in risk expo-
sure among population groups, as well as differences in
the extent to which various segments of the population
are protected from the adverse effects of firearm vio-
lence. We highlight dozens of studies to illustrate how
firearm violence and community trauma in the U.S. can
be more effectively addressed when a “social and struc-
tural determinants” perspective is used to understand
and respond to this public health problem.
Keywords: firearm violence; community violence;
community trauma; structural determi-
nants of health; racial capitalism; health
The burden of firearm violence in the U.S. is
significant and among the highest in the world
compared with other similarly large and wealthy
countries, despite unparalleled spending on
policing, imprisonment, and curative medical
care (Stemen 2017; Wager, Ortaliza, and Cox
Shani A. L. Buggs is a public health and policy
researcher with the Violence Prevention Research
Program and the California Firearm Violence Research
Center at the University of California, Davis. Through
her research on community-driven safety, she strives to
inform policies that facilitate health equity and well-
being for all families and communities.
Nicole D. Kravitz-Wirtz is a population health sociolo-
gist with the Violence Prevention Research Program
and the California Firearm Violence Research Center
at UC Davis. Her research aims to understand the
social ecology of places to foster equitable, community-
centered policies and practices for improving the health
of people and communities impacted by violence.
2022). All communities are affected (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2020; Kaufman et al. 2021; The Global Burden of Disease 2016 Injury
Collaborators 2018). Yet the consequences of firearm violence in the U.S., espe-
cially community firearm violence, are unevenly borne, with minoritized and
marginalized communities, and particularly Black adolescents and young adults,
shouldering the greatest toll of death, injury, and resultant trauma. Community
firearm violence is defined as interpersonal firearm violence, including firearm
homicide, between non–intimately related parties (Bancalari, Sommer, and
Rajan 2022). Firearm homicide is the third leading cause of death for all young
people ages 15 to 24, but it is the second leading cause of death for Black girls
and young women and the leading cause of death for Black boys and young men,
who in 2020 made up <1 percent of the population but accounted for nearly one
in five (18 percent) firearm homicides (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention 2020).
The disproportionate impacts of community firearm violence within racially
and economically segregated neighborhoods do not arise passively (Galea and
Vaughan 2021) or in a vacuum. Rather, they are rooted in historical and present-
day structural racism and other oppressive systems of power and marginalization
that create and concentrate inequitable community conditions of numerous risk
factors associated with interpersonal violence (e.g., poverty, unemployment and
underemployment, grief and loss, and disinvestment in basic requisites of life) and
few protective factors associated with safety (e.g., high-quality and accessible edu-
cation, housing, and economic and workforce opportunities) (Prevention Institute
and Big Cities Health Coalition 2021). This enduring inequity has been exacer-
bated amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reinforced unequal systems of
support and intensified the destabilizing conditions where interpersonal violence
becomes more likely. The pandemic also coincided with massive increases in fire-
arm sales and availability (Rivara, Vars, and Rowhani-Rahbar 2021), which have
been linked in prior research to subsequent increases in firearm injury rates
(Laqueur et al. 2019). Dozens of U.S. cities, large and small, experienced record
surges in community firearm homicide in 2020, with the greatest increases occur-
ring in low-income Black and Brown communities (Kegler et al. 2022; Rosenfeld
and Lopez 2020). While the rate of increase has slowed (Simon et al. 2022), ele-
vated levels of firearm homicide have persisted as disruptions to pre-pandemic
patterns of individual and community life have continued.
As devastating as firearm homicide is, it captures only a fraction of the reach
and harm of this enduring public health problem. A nationally representative
survey administered in 2013 to 2014, when rates of firearm violence were rela-
tively low, estimated that approximately 8 percent of children and teens and 13
percent of the subset of those ages 14 to 17 reported hearing gunshots or seeing
someone shot over their lifetime (Finkelhor et al. 2015). One study among com-
munities highly impacted by structural disinvestment and interpersonal violence
Julia J. Lund is a research data analyst with the Violence Prevention Research Program and
the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis. She utilizes interdisciplinary
and mixed methods to understand the structural drivers of violence and support community-
driven approaches to safety and wellness.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT