Resourcing Community as a Path to Gun Violence Prevention

In the time between publishing our last newsletter and this one, there have been at least 54 mass shootings across the South. Shootings in Texas, Tennessee, and Kentucky have made it onto national news platforms. While the epidemic of mass shootings is not isolated to the South, the context of the region gives us a glimpse into what is fueling the crisis and who is disproportionately affected. GSP recently sat down with Equality Florida to learn more.  

Florida is the third largest state in the country and home to some of the nation’s most prolific shooting cases. From the murder of Trayvon Martin to the Pulse Night Club massacre to the Parkland high school shooting, the country has watched in terror as countless lives have been taken across the state. Equality Florida is the state’s leading LGBTQ+ rights organization and gun violence prevention is one of their movement strategies. While this may seem like an unlikely pairing, the connections between gun violence prevention and the fight for equal rights could not be clearer to Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida’s Press Secretary. He explains “There are two pillars that uphold gun violence – easy access to firearms and the hate component. Hate on its own is dangerous, but militarized hate is deadly.” Equality Florida’s work is a reminder that the issues our communities face are often overlapping, and the intersections are where we find our best solutions.  

We cannot talk about gun violence without talking about racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, and other forms of hate violence, because these issues are indelibly linked. The Anti-Defamation League reported recently that “All the extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing extremists.” Mainstream narratives that paint the South as inherently white and morally bereft ignore the more complicated truth: the South is the most diverse region in the United States. At the same time, regressive political policies like redlining, voter suppression, and extremist rhetoric proliferate the region and create the conditions for hate violence. These policies and beliefs combined with easy gun access make hate violence all but guaranteed, putting marginalized people in the South at extreme risk.  

Thankfully, grassroots organizations are on the ground and meeting the moment. Equality Florida is a member of the Coalition for Pulse, along with ContigoQLatinx, and Everytown who will be featured on one of GSP’s Learning Tours at our Biennial Convening in August. The Coalition is made up of queer, Latine, and gun violence prevention organizations serving central Florida. Equality Florida has made significant progress around prevention victories, including passing legislation around Extreme Risk Protection Orders, raising the age requirement for gun purchases, and funding mental health care initiatives. When asked how philanthropy can best support grassroots organizations in this moment, Wolf said “Disposability is not a workable political solution. Funders need to know that if we can make progress in Florida, we can make progress across the South. By funding work for LGBTQ+ equality, you are funding the fight against hate, which is a form of gun violence prevention.”  

The same can be said for community-led and centered movement work happening across the South. Gun violence cannot be prevented if hate is not being eradicated and communities are not getting their needs met. The issues we are facing are multi-faceted, which means our solutions must be too. Philanthropy can make a life-saving impact by funding structural change work and mitigating violence at the source. Some steps funders should consider taking are:  

  • Work in partnership with organizations on the ground to understand the intersections between gun violence prevention, efforts to support vulnerable communities, and how this work should be funded in the South;  
  • Commit to funding Black, Brown, and Indigenous-led organizations in the South working on gun violence prevention and community safety efforts;  
  • Streamline your grantmaking strategies to make it easier for organizations to access funding in the wake of sudden tragedies that don’t align with your grant calendar;  
  • Make general operating grants to organizations working at the intersections between communities affected by gun violence and the work you’re already funding.

If you are looking to align your grantmaking strategies with grassroots movement and structural change work but don’t know where to start, reach out to us.