Forum looks at gun violence as public health issue

OHSU-PSU hosting gun violence forum

PORTLAND, Ore. -- We need to start being honest about gun violence - that's what local health experts and victims' families are saying in Oregon.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, every day an Oregonian is killed in some type of shooting, be it suicide, person-to-person violence, or accidents. This weekend, a gun violence forum hopes to show people we're all involved in what leads up to it.

Kimberely Dixon, of Portland, lost her 21-year-old son Andreas to a gang shooting in 2013.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Andreas," she said.

Now, Dixon speaks to victims' families and shows troubled teens the consequences of their actions.

"Life is valuable, your life is valuable. I think there's a disconnect between that understanding," she said. "Sometimes I liken it to a video game, so what I remind them is when you're playing with guns, nobody's getting back up, it's final."

She's one of the speakers at this Saturday's community forum on gun violence put on by OHSU and Portland State University. They say it's a public health emergency in Oregon. In just the past week and a half, there have been two deadly shootings in Portland. In one, police said a teenager was shot in the head just because a stranger wanted to steal his belt.

PSU professor Dr. Ryan Petteway says it's more than that.

"Telling people 'don't shoot someone' or 'don't shoot yourself, don't be violent toward another person' without looking at the context and conditions that might have affected this person is missing the point," Dr. Petteway said.

He points to our housing crisis and decades of gentrification. He says it can breed depression, anger and social pressure. If you don't know how to cope, guns are an easy way out.

"The people most likely to be victims of this interpersonal violence are people who grew up in social economic conditions that are unfavorable for healthy development, political conditions where they have no political representation or voice, or living conditions where they have homes with lead in the paint or roaches running across the kitchen."

As Dixon keeps her son's memory close, she wants to share what she's learned with others.

"Hurting people, hurt people, so how do we look at that hurt? How do we address even mental wellness? How do we address there's real depression going on even in this very green place of Oregon?"

The gun violence forum is this Saturday from 10 a.m-3 p.m. It's free to all ages, and lunch is provided, but you do need to register. It's at the Highland Christian Center, at 7600 NE Glisan St. in Portland.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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