SAN DIEGO, CA – (May 22, 2023) Last Friday, Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) held its second Spirit of the Barrio event of the year at Logan Heights Family Health Center. Hundreds of attendees enjoyed FHCSD’s famous tamale lunch during a panel discussion on one of the most pressing issues in our region and country: gun violence and the disproportionate impact it has on historically underserved communities.

Gun violence is a pressing public health issue that affects individuals, families and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 40,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2022. Data shows that gun violence as a social determinant of health is crucial to improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

Dr. Cid Martinez, one of our region’s leading experts on gun violence, moderated a panel with survivors of gun violence, advocates for community policing reform, gun policy reform and San Diego’s top data analysts on the scope of this issue in San Diego.

A question addressed to Ted Womack, Civic Engagement Manager at Alliance San Diego, asked why so many people carry guns in the first place?

“People carry guns for several reasons, including protection in communities with gang violence, often times out of a feeling or need to fit in with their peers in historically underserved communities, or simply because they grew up around guns and it’s been normalized for everyone to carry,” said Womack.

Pastor Jesus Sandoval Hernandez, a former gang member who is a survivor of gun violence and now heads up the City of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention spoke about the commission’s wraparound approach.

“We partner active gang members with former gang members of the same gang to provide mentorship and perspective of how gang membership and gun violence can negatively impact the rest of their lives,” said Pastor Sandoval. “When trusted members of these communities come in and talk to gang members and their families, the success rate of reducing violence is significantly higher compared to approaches that don’t already have that level of trust built into their program.”

Dr. Anita Raj, Director of the Center on Gender Equity & Health and Professor of Infectious Diseases & Global Public Health at the School of Medicine at UC San Diego gave context on how different demographic groups feel about guns.

“We know that statistically black females feel least safe having a gun in the house, while white males feel most safe having a gun in the house,” said Dr. Raj. “From the data, we can see that gun culture and glorification cuts across every demographic, but is more prevalent amongst some demographic groups than others.”

“We’re the only country that has this culture of guns and gun ownership being a part of our history and heritage, as well as a well-funded gun lobby, which plays a major role in why we see legislators who are in a place to make change choose not to do so.”

Audience members had the opportunity to ask questions after the panel, which ranged from gun policy to the impact of organizations like the NRA on Congress’ inability to act for so long on common sense gun reform. People also expressed feeling scared sending their children to school due to the major increase in mass shootings in recent years.

Panelists were cautiously optimistic about national gun reform in the coming years, and noted trust between government and underserved communities is increasing in our region, while gun violence is decreasing locally. Additionally, they all agreed that more conversations like this and more pressure on legislators is the best way to reduce gun violence and make change.

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About Spirit of the Barrio
Since 1986, Family Health Centers of San Diego’s Spirit of the Barrio luncheons have spread awareness about our mission to provide high-quality health care to underserved communities across San Diego, while also presenting a variety of themes to our guests as they dine on our legendary tamales. The event promises to inform, educate and entertain its hundreds of audience members and does so through a diverse list of guest speakers and subjects. We’ve hosted prominent community leaders and local stars as speakers and entertainers since the luncheon began over 30 years ago.

About Family Health Centers of San Diego
For over 50 years, Family Health Centers of San Diego’s (FHCSD) mission has been to provide caring, affordable, high-quality health care and supportive services to everyone, with a special commitment to uninsured, low-income and medically underserved persons. FHCSD is one of the nation’s ten largest FQHCs, operating over 70 sites across San Diego County and providing care to more than 227,000 patients each year, of whom 91% are low-income and 29% are uninsured.