Department of Commerce launches new Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention
Office will focus on community gun violence disproportionately impacting communities of color
Shalisa Hayes is a mother with a mission.
In August 2011, she experienced the deepest pain a mother could feel — the loss of her young son who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Billy Ray Shirley III was 17 years old. He was shot and killed leaving a party in Tacoma, WA.
For Hayes, this wasn’t her first brush with gun violence. She had lost her father to homicide when she was a young girl. The grief from such loss can be paralyzing, but Hayes has spent the last decade in motion. Hayes led the charge for a new community center in Tacoma’s eastside neighborhood and has become a leading voice for stopping gun violence in communities often overlooked by the media and policy-makers.
“For too many years, communities of color have seen a lackluster reaction to gun violence, as opposed to one rooted in prevention,” Hayes said. “As someone who’s been directly impacted by gun violence on multiple occasions, and who has worked to help reduce it, we need to supply our communities with the resources necessary to help shift an ongoing harmful and deadly trend.”
The newly-created Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention at the Department of Commerce will lead a statewide effort to coordinate evidence-based intervention and prevention strategies to address community gun violence. The office’s work will be directed at the highest risk populations of perpetrators and victims in the highest risk communities. The office is among a handful in the nation and was formed under legislation sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra in 2020. It currently has an annual operating budget of $421,000.
Read the full story on Commerce’s Medium site.