Opinion: We need to do more in Travis County to prevent gun violence

Gun violence is the number one cause of death in Travis County.

Instability caused by the pandemic and easy access to firearms have led to an increase in gun violence across the country, in both rural and urban communities. Mass shootings and violence threaten our public safety.

In Travis County, we take gun violence and our responsibility to prevent it seriously.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown and the Travis County Commissioners Court have made significant investments in our public safety infrastructure. The court provided resources to recruit additional sheriffs and temporarily increased the number of homicide prosecutors and victim testimony counsel.

The county prosecutor’s office has focused its efforts on holding people who commit gun violence to account. Since the appointment of Travis County District Attorney José Garza, the prosecution has received more than 4,504 charges and 1,439 convictions for acts of violence. The Public Prosecution Service has a prosecution rate of over 90 percent for all gun offenses brought to the office.

But the truth is, we will never arrest and prosecute our way out of this crisis. If we take our public safety seriously, we need to do more to prevent gun violence.

That starts with investing in the stability of our community. As a province, we are safer if everyone has access to good jobs, a stable place to live and physical and mental health care. The Travis County Commissioners Court recently invested more than $110 million in permanent and stable housing and increased funding by more than $1 million for mental health and substance use care.

We also need to build a gun violence prevention ecosystem that includes law enforcement, our health care system and communities most affected by gun violence. In June of this year, we hosted a Gun Violence Summit with law enforcement, local and state government partners to discuss strategies to address gun violence in our community. We agreed we needed to do more.

We must strategically deploy our law enforcement resources to identify and prevent those who commit shootings. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Integrated Ballistic Information Network program is to be made more accessible to law enforcement agencies through Travis County. The program makes it easier to analyze ballistic evidence by using information in a pooled database.

If we want to prevent gun violence, we must deploy our health care system to meet the needs of victims of gun violence. People who are victims of gun violence once are more likely to be victimized a second and third time. People who commit gun violence are often victims of gun violence themselves. By setting up a violence intervention program in hospitals, we can intervene in crisis situations to prevent future violence.

For people charged with a criminal offense who are at risk of committing gun violence, research shows that community-based solutions and violence intervention programs are more effective at preventing violence than incarceration.

Each of these strategies, combined with the ongoing collaboration between Travis County and the City of Austin to establish a firearms surrender protocol and violence prevention strategies funded by the City of Austin, can contribute to the ecosystem that we needed to tackle the root causes of gun violence. in our community.

None of these strategies will lead to change overnight. There is no strategy that will do that. But if we invest in proven strategies, we can build a healthy and thriving community without gun violence.

Next Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court will continue its work to reduce gun violence by considering a proposal to build an ecosystem for gun violence prevention. We look forward to starting that work with our colleagues on the court.

Garza is the District Attorney of Travis County. Travillion is a Travis County Commissioner.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Opinion: We need to do more in Travis County to prevent gun violence

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