We’re on track to set a new record for homicide by firearm this year in Kalamazoo County. The city of Kalamazoo itself will eclipse its previous record, set in 2020, which it tied the following year.
Since then, more than 150 community members and violence prevention workers, elected and appointed government officials, and members of the nonprofit and health care industries created what’s called the Kalamazoo Blueprint for Peace.
The Blueprint is in many ways a plan to identify and treat wounds in our community. It’s an outline of root causes – such as racism from which socioeconomic realities manifest over multiple decades and generations, during which time hope can be snuffed out – and solutions. It’s an attempt at both equity and sustainability, so that we rely on more than band-aid solutions to address the impact of gun culture and the trend of gun violence.
These wounds are not unique to us: Kalamazoo’s ongoing experience takes place within a national gun violence crisis that includes mass shootings, suicide, accidents, domestic violence, and individuals targeted based on their identity such as their gender or sexuality. In Kalamazoo, it’s predominantly a product of group violence such as gangs, and disputes, boiling with emotion, that in the past would have ended in fisticuffs but for the current prevalence of guns.
The Blueprint was modeled after a similar approach in Milwaukee, which treats gun violence as a public health crisis. Organizers are adamant that, as a strategy, it is geared to prevent tomorrow’s headlines, not today’s – after so many decades of doubling down on root causes and exacerbating their consequences, the fix is neither quick nor simple.
Despite the complexity, it is relatively straightforward. While violence leaves a family, a neighborhood, and a community with questions and unimaginable pain, it’s also a logical result of the mix of conditions on which this record year of shootings have been built. Similarly, a Blueprint to rebuild is not something that can be done overnight.
The authors are now planning out how to prioritize key elements of the Blueprint – the six goals, 28 strategies, and 93 actions – and determining how to fund its successful implementation over the next three years.
The Blueprint is designed to both begin to be executed and to be updated over time. You can find a draft of the Blueprint here, as well as a presentation.
For a detailed look at the Blueprint for Peace, watch the interview of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s Vice President for Policies & Initiatives Jen Heymoss, by NowKalamazoos Managing Editor Kristie May. The interview was conducted at the studios of the Public Media Network.
May is leading NowKalamazoo’s Beyond Bullets project, an extensive and deep look at gun violence from the point of view of those most impacted and working to end the crisis locally. You can read our recent Beyond Bullets stories here.
Publisher’s note on transparency:
Over the past year, NowKalamazoo was invited to observe the Blueprint process, meeting with consultants and leaders in the process, as well as participate in various sessions from which elements of the Blueprint were created. This provided us a more detailed and holistic understanding of how and why the Blueprint came about.
In addition, it is important to acknowledge that one of NowKalamazoo’s financial supporters is the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (we are transparent about this support at the bottom of every email newsletter and story on our website). The Foundation’s support of Beyond Bullets is founded on two additional pillars of trust: the mission of our coverage of the root causes and consequences of gun violence, and the irrevocable independence that prohibits any influence on our coverage or editorial decisions.
Thank you to the community institutions that support our work: