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'Portland is in crisis': Multnomah County leaders discuss gun violence and solutions

Nonprofits, lawmakers and law enforcement joined the virtual event Saturday to discuss solutions.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Nonprofits, lawmakers and law enforcement leaders including Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, used a virtual town hall meeting Saturday to discuss gun violence. 

This comes after Portland broke its own record for the number of recorded homicides. It was 70 homicides in 1987 and with two months left in the year, Portland saw its 71st and 72nd in a double homicide in Old Town earlier this month.

Portland also reached 1,000 recorded shootings, which Portland Police Bureau Chuck Lovell called a "grim milestone." 

"Unfortunately the violence, we're seeing right now is eroding away the sense of safety and security in many of our neighborhoods," said Sheriff Reese.

He said local agencies were coming together weekly to share information to solve cases. 

"We do need, right now, to act with a sense of urgency, " explained Sheriff Reese. "As we work upstream, we've also got to intervene and we need to intervene right now."

RELATED: Multiple bullets flew into a man's home while he slept, injuring his shoulder, piercing his headboard

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt echoed similar sentiments emphasizing an all hands on deck approach needed to be more preventative rather the just reactive. 

"We've got more gun prosecutions happening in the last year than we've ever had before, but we're reactive. By the time my office is involved the shell casings are on the ground," said Schmidt.

Lakayana Drury, founder of the nonprofit Word is Bond said gun violence is the outcome of other issues like homelessness and income inequality. He said those issues are important to talk about when discussing prevention 

"Education, jobs and housing— there is no replacement for those and those directly tied into what we're seeing in gun violence, but gun violence is just part of it."

Rep. Maxine Dexter echoed her thoughts on how gun violence is a multi-faceted issue. 

"More than 70 people who had families, hopes dreams and fears have lost their lives violently at the hands of someone with a gun. This increase in gun violence has been a topic concern for many of us," Dexter said. "These issues are connected. We are seeing income disparity more than we’ve ever  seen since the great depression."

She said even the situation COVID-19 has created likely contributes, "The perpetual uncertainty and stress we are all experiencing must be having an impact."

RELATED: What is the FBI doing to combat gun violence in Portland?

"Portland is in crisis," she said, but recognizes that the city is not alone. Gun violence across the country has increased.

Nationally, more research is being done into gun violence by the CDC than has been done in decades. In 1997, the CDC stopped doing gun research. However, former President Trump signed a bill in 2018 allowing for the research to continue. Millions of dollars have been allocated to that continued research.

For now, locally, law enforcement is taking illegal firearms out of the mix.


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