Portland is currently experiencing a record high in gun violence rates. During the weekend of August 27 and 28, nine shootings occurred, leaving three dead and nine injured. As of August, 893 shootings in Portland have occured, a 223.551% increase from the same month in 2019, according to data collected by the City of Portland. Our Franklin community has experienced losses due to the city’s (and surrounding area) gun violence over the past few years; one recent loss occurred when Class of 2022 Franklin Graduate Amadou Keita was shot and killed in July.
The City of Portland has announced new tactics focused on combating the rise of gun violence the city is currently experiencing. Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a gun violence emergency on July 21, following the announcement of ‘Safer Summer PDX,’ his Summer Safety Initiative, on June 21. This initiative would focus on reducing shootings by working with Portland’s Community Safety Division, City Council, the Portland Police Bureau, and community groups. Last year, following the dissolution of the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) after an investigation that found the team disproportionately targeted people of color, City Council approved the creation of a new task force, the Focused Intervention Team (FIT). This past attempt by the city saw little impact on the number of shootings Portland is experiencing.
Public frustration throughout the state has brought on citizen-led action for stricter gun laws. Initiative Petition 17 was created by Oregon citizens and successfully garnered enough signatures to appear on Oregonians’ ballots in November. The new measure would require that, to purchase a firearm, one must first complete a safety training course, and pass a full background check. The Portland Police Bureau (PBB) declined to comment on whether they believed this measure would be helpful in reducing the number of shootings.
This recent gun violence surge has many people wondering: Why is this happening? “This is a trend being seen across the country,” explains Nathan Sheppard, the media correspondent for the PPB, “and I think it won’t be until many years from now, after a large amount of data is analyzed and studies are conducted, that we’ll totally begin to understand it.”
Sheppard then references the $15 million cut from the PBB’s proposed 2021 budget, saying, “one thing studies have shown is that the mere presence of law-enforcement officers is a deterrent to people committing crime. Seeing a police officer near the corner store someone wants to rob makes them think twice.” When further contacted and asked if the PBB believed the budget cuts, which were in response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, were a significant factor in the current rise in shootings, we received no response.