PORTLAND, Ore. — Gun violence in Portland has been on the rise over the past few years, but a newly released report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the problem is not unique to the Rose City.
According to the report, deadly shootings accounted for 79% of homicides nationwide in 2020. That is a 35% increase from the year before and the highest firearm homicide rate in more than two decades.
"It's tremendously difficult and disturbing to hear that," said Promise Marks. "I think somewhere, we have lost good old fashioned morals and values about the kindergarten rule — do unto others what you want done to you."
Marks' son Curtis Smith would have turned 27 this year. Instead, his birthday will pass without a big party, and gun violence is to blame.
"Life isn't the same and won't be the same without his physical presence," Marks said.
Smith was in town for a funeral when he was shot and killed in North Portland's Farragut Park in late February 2021. He was one of 69 people shot and killed in Portland in 2021.
So far this year, at least 34 people have been gunned down.
"Curtis didn't get the chance to be the man he wanted to be because his life was cut short for what? Nonsense," Marks said. "And I'm not the only one. That's what's really sad. There's too many families walking in these shoes."
The CDC said in 2020, firearm homicide rates increased across all age groups, but the largest increases were noticed among non-Hispanic Black males between the ages of 10 and 44.
According to the report, one explanation is long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism,.
"We have to get to redirecting our mindset," Marks said. "I think it's horrible we're living in a society that doesn't value life."
Marks learned that the hard way when her son was shot and killed — a murder that remains unsolved more than 14 months later.