Center for Gun Violence Solutions brings hope despite grim statistics

December 12, 2023 by Renee Fischer

Feitler Professor combines research with advocacy to change policy

Deaths by homicide gunfire in the U.S. increased by 45% between 2019-2021.

About 120 people die by gunfire each day in the U.S. (approximately 44,000 fatalities annually), with suicide representing slightly more than half of these deaths.

Gunfire is also now the leading cause of death in children aged 1-18.

“The numbers tell a pretty grim story. In the last couple years, we’ve seen record numbers of homicide and suicide deaths by firearms. We compile the data every year. So, we know,” says Joshua Horwitz, JD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

“But we are making some good progress from a policy perspective. The problem is it’s just too darn slow,” according to Horwitz, who is the inaugural holder of the Dana Feitler Professor of the Practice in Gun Violence Prevention and Advocacy.

Factors like systemic and racial disparities, relaxed carry-conceal laws, increased alcohol consumption and isolation during the pandemic, and distrust of law enforcement have exacerbated the issue, but Horwitz points to successes like the passage of 28 new gun violence prevention laws across the country in the last year.

For instance, the center’s information campaign helped educate Oregon voters, who then passed a gun licensing ballot initiative in that state last November. Additionally, the center advocated for the recent passage of extreme risk protection order (ERPO) legislation in Michigan. Also known as red flag laws, ERPO laws allow for the temporarily removal of firearms from people who are a danger to themselves or others.

Horwitz himself lost a good friend to firearm suicide, and this tragedy fuels his work. “It’s one of those things that really affected me forever. I really wish I knew more then. So, can we put the right tools in other people’s hands now to save their friends’ lives and their kids’ lives? That’s what drives me every day when I get up,” he says.

Horwitz stresses that the center, co-directed by Cassandra Crifasi and formed in 2022 when the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy merged with the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, takes a holistic approach to this complex issue — advocating for steps like safe and secure gun storage, along with building strong partnerships with community action groups and lawmakers.

Home to some of the nation’s leading gun violence prevention experts, the center addresses gun violence as a public health emergency, conducting rigorous and objective non-partisan research to develop solutions to measurably reduce gun violence and drive meaningful advocacy to save lives.

“Hopkins has always had great research and always translated that for policymakers, but what we do is put that on steroids,” Horwitz says. “Our advocates are out there every single day taking this amazing research and making it work in the world.”

“And being a professor at Hopkins opens doors that I never imagined would be open for me while becoming the Dana Feitler Professor is the biggest professional honor of my life,” he adds.

“I can’t think of a better way to commemorate my beautiful sister, Dana Feitler, whose life was taken randomly on the streets of Chicago at the age of 24,” says Pamela Hoehn-Saric, who endowed the professorship with her husband, Chris, and who also serves on the Bloomberg School of Public Health Advisory Board.

“In my mind, it’s a way for her legacy to live on,” Hoehn-Saric says of the endowed professorship. “And Hopkins is really lucky to have found a partner like Josh and his team.”

“My job is to make sure that there are as few future victims of gun violence as possible, and being part of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions makes me very hopeful because we see where the solutions are and how we can save lives.” Horwitz says. “We believe honestly and passionately that if we continue doing what we’re doing, we will save thousands of lives a year.”



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