“What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted. Then, once a policy is determined, you call on them to help you sell it.”
— Elizabeth Dole

“We owe action to American communities being torn apart by gun violence." Joe Biden, President of the United States of America (February 2023)


News - 01 Jun 2023

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After Capitol riots, AOC demands Cruz, Hawley resign from the Senate
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigns after Capitol rioting
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Gun Violence in Rural America:
How law enforcement can support the nation’s youth to reduce violence across rural communities

Key Speaker

Laurie Owen, Director, Group Violence Intervention at the National Network for Safe Communities.

This event was held on Monday, May 22nd 2023.


According to the Missouri Independent, rural gun deaths are exceeding those of urban rates by 28% due to suicide rates increasing in these locations of America. However, how is gun violence more prevalent in rural communities overall? As the Center for American Progress illustrates, the media places a large focus on gun and gang violence in large, urban cities; however, rural communities are at risk of experiencing high crime rates with little attention placed on these geographical areas. “In recent years, rural counties’ proportional gun homicide rates outnumbered those of urban counties.” (American Progress) One of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, Manhattan, ranks 521st for firearm homicide rate, meaning that it is low compared to places in rural Arizona that are experiencing a rise in gun violence of 5.24% between 2016 and 2020. A study done by the Pew Research Center on gun ownership policies found that 46% of adults that live in rural America are gun owners, compared to 29% for those that live in urban areas. Going even further, three-fourths of these rural gun owners said in the study that they own multiple firearms, not just one. This study also highlighted that in rural areas, children between the ages of 5 and 14 are hospitalized more often for gunshot inflicted wounds than those that live in urban areas. The University of Washington found that children in rural areas are exposed to firearms at a young age, and therefore are at higher risk of suffering violent confrontations. The main outcomes of this study stated that firearm prevention programs that are aimed at reducing the risk of firearm-related harm needs to be delivered at an early educational age, such as elementary school.

Considering that 46 million people live in rural areas, which is 15% of the U.S. population, it is important to take a closer look at how this increase in gun violence affects society as a whole. A fact sheet released by the Center for American Progress states that “weak gun laws and a higher concentration of gun ownership has contributed to this trend, causing further stress on local law enforcement and communities alike.” An issue that arises from not properly taking care of this gun conflict is that mental health problems are increasing among young people that live in rural areas. As Rural Health Info highlights, “in 2010 the suicide rate of rural teens was 6.3 per 100,000 people, which climbed to 8.8 in 2020. For comparison, the rate in metro areas was 3.4 per 100,000 in 2010, climbing to 5.9 in 2020. In addition, rural teens had a higher prevalence of behavioral problems, anxiety, and depression than their urban counterparts.” In a Policy Brief released by the National Rural Health Association, they found that mental health is still an area that carries a lot of stigma within rural communities, so young people don’t seek help because of this, and in some places resources and counseling are not even available as an option. Mental health is a symptom that is felt in rural communities that is consequent of rising gun violence. The United States Justice Department announced in 2021 that it was releasing nearly $444 million in grants and awards to support efforts in reducing violence across America, including intervention and prevention strategies that will assist in rural areas as well.

In 2019, Illinios implemented the Firearm Restraining Order (FRO), which was aimed at preventing gun violence and suicide by firearm before they occurred. How does this FRO work? "A FRO is a civil order that temporarily prohibits an individual (known as a respondent) who has been found by a court to pose a significant risk of harming themself or others from acquiring and possessing firearms, a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card, and any Concealed Carry License." (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) Several other states, like Connecticut, have also implemented FRO's into their state legislation, and have found it to be quite successful but not enough, as each county is different and requires distinct policy measures. In March of 2022, the White House released a statement with policy actions it will take to combat gun violence. The proposal focuses on five strategies for reducing gun violence in America, which includes stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violence. As was previously highlighted, rural areas have a higher rate of gun ownership, and work is being done by legislative officials to make background checks stricter when purchasing a firearm. However, the White House statement did not specifically mention rural areas or offer a section on how rural places differ from urban ones. This symposium seeks to address the question of how can policy support gun laws that protect rural America from firearm violence. We will analyze the key role that mental health plays in driving an increase in violence in these areas, and how the younger population is at higher risk of being exposed to the damaging effects of violence.


  • Evaluate existing government strategies to tackle gun crime in rural America, assessing the value of taking a mental health approach to the issue.
  • Discuss the challenges that gun violence prevention and intervention services face in different communities and brainstorm ways to overcome them.
  • Discuss the influences of systemic racism and policing practices on community engagement with law enforcement.
  • Review the ways in which rural socioeconomic status might draw people to engage in gun violence and discuss how communities and administrators can create viable alternatives to violence.
  • Analyse the current support offered to young people in rural communities as a means of preventing youth violence, assessing the extent to which sufficient support is provided within communities, schools, and health care settings.
  • Examine the effects of Covid-19 on an increase in rural crime rates, particularly the effects that isolation and school absenteeism have had on child wellbeing.
  • Consider the ways in which education systems can help steer children and adolescents living in rural areas with higher crime rates away from violence.
  • Analyze the effectiveness of current legislation and gun laws in place and how they are working in rural America.

Who Should Attend?

  • Rural Community Groups
  • Rural Community Citizens
  • Crime and Disorder Reduction Specialist
  • Community Safety Teams
  • Community Rehabilitation Companies
  • Probation Officers
  • Neighborhood Policing Teams
  • Anti-Social Behavior Coordinators
  • Drug and Alcohol Action Teams
  • Police Service, Police Authorities and Fire Services
  • Firearm Units
  • Youth Teams
  • Youth and Outreach Workers
  • Youth Inclusion Teams
  • Community Cohesion and Development Organizations
  • Community Support Officers
  • Accident and Emergency Departments
  • Local Authority Officers and Law Enforcement
  • Central Government Departments and Agencies
  • Children and Youth Services
  • Domestic Violence Groups
  • Families Services Officers
  • Children Centers Specialists
  • Health Service Professionals
  • Victim Support Representatives
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers and Social Services Officers
  • Local Education Professionals
  • Teachers and Professors
  • Rural Neighborhood Watches
  • Criminal Justice Practitioners
  • Judges and Magistrates
  • Legal Professionals
  • Equality and Diversity Practitioners
  • Third Sector Practitioners
  • Academics and Researchers
  • Anti-Gun Violence Activists
This event was held on Monday, May 22nd 2023.

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