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Everhart pushes for gun violence prevention office in Buffalo

Masten District Representative Zeneta Everhart addresses the media in Niagara Square, Buffalo on July 8 2024
Holly Kirkpatrick
Masten District Representative Zeneta Everhart addresses the media in Niagara Square, Buffalo on July 8 2024

Buffalo Common Councilmember Zeneta Everhart has introduced a resolution to establish the Buffalo Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

The resolution proposes that the office be known as “The Buffalo Initiative for Safer, Organized Neighborhoods” - or B.I.S.O.N - and aims to provide ongoing support and resources to families impacted by gun violence, implement evidence-based interventions, facilitate community engagement, and collaborate with law enforcement to address illegal firearm trafficking according to a press release from the Common Council's communications office.

“We need the office of gun violence and prevention in the city of Buffalo,” said Everhart who represents the city’s Masten District. “It is time. I am tired. I'm exhausted. I'm tired of hearing people talk about gun violence …our community deserves better, and it has to start in government.”

Everhart is the mother a Zaire Goodman who was one of three people injured in the mass shooting at the Tops Grocery store on Jefferson Avenue in May 2022 where 10 people were killed in a racist attack. She says the Buffalo office will mimic the work of the White House’s Office for Gun Violence Prevention, which was established in September 2023 after White House officials visited the site of 5/14 in the days following the shooting.

“The City of Buffalo obviously played a major role in that office, but we have not stood up to that challenge ourselves even though 5/14 happened here. And so I've taken it upon myself to make sure that the city of Buffalo follows in those footsteps. We have to protect our community,” Everhart said.

The resolution comes after recent gun violence in Buffalo, including the shooting of six teenagers resulting in the death of 14-year-old Jazzmine Fomy in May, and the fatal shooting of 3-year-old Ramone Carter in June. Last month the U.S. Surgeon General declared firearm violence a public health crisis in America. It is important to frame it as such according to the CEO of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Pastor George Nicholas.

“It takes the onus off it only being seen as a criminal justice issue, but this is a public health issue because it costs about 50,000 lives every year in this country,” Nicholas said. “And it’s not just homicide,” he added. “The presence of a gun will escalate domestic violence situations to a fatal place. A lot of women that are killed are killed by guns in the midst of a domestic violence situation. It also makes suicide much more readily happening in our community.”

There were more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2022 according to the CDC. That's about 132 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day. More than half of firearm-related deaths were suicides and more than four out of every 10 were firearm homicides.

Everhart's resolution requests that the mayor’s administration works with the common council and the city’s corporation council to create a local law to establish the new office by December 31 2024. Everhart says the city needs to employ a grant writer to apply for federal money to help fund the new office and its initiatives.

“There are millions and millions of dollars right now available to organizations - they can use that money to help them in gun violence prevention in their neighborhoods and in their communities. So we need someone writing those grants to get those federal dollars. They're not going to just sit there forever, right? And so time is of the essence. We need that money.”

Holly Kirkpatrick is a journalist whose work includes investigations, data journalism, and feature stories that hold those in power accountable. She joined WBFO in December 2022.