As students head back to school, safety is top of mind. After yet another Chicago summer marred by gun violence, students, their families and school staff are all bracing for what’s to come.
It can sometimes feel like our hands are tied in Illinois, where we already have some of the strongest state and local gun laws in the country. While our state is safer overall because of those laws, in Chicago, we bear the casualties of a constant flow of guns from states with more lax laws — a reminder that our safety is in part dependent on our neighboring states and leaders in Washington.
But our safety is also dependent on each other. Community-based organizations like Chicago CRED, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, READI Chicago and other violence intervention programs know this well: These programs are successful because they build trusting relationships in communities disproportionately affected by violence and leverage those connections to spread the message to put the guns down.
Sharing facts about gun risks from a trusted messenger is a proven model for saving lives. And many lives need to be saved — gun violence is, after all, the leading cause of death in America for children and teens. So what if we could wield the power of social media, where teens spend many hours of their day, on average, to scale some of the most effective work in gun violence prevention to reach millions of young people before they pick up guns?