An All-In Approach to Solving the Crisis of Gun Violence and Building Lasting Peace in Our Communities

Players Coalition
3 min readJun 6, 2024

By Torrey Smith, Former NFL wide receiver, 2x Super Bowl Champion, and Players Coalition Task Force Member

Washington, D.C., has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, and in the past few years violent crime has spiked. As recent reporting shows, “sixty-five percent of District residents think crime is an “extremely serious” or a “very serious” problem”. I have experienced gun violence firsthand and have seen the devastating impacts on individuals, families, and communities.

Because of gun violence, life expectancy is worse in D.C. than in almost every other city in the U.S. It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to do more to get to people before they pull the trigger. This is where community violence intervention (CVI) strategies and wraparound care can make a real impact, but we’re barely scratching the surface of this proven work in D.C. Unsurprisingly, research shows that any exposure to gun violence can lead to more gun violence. People who are shot do not feel safe, are more likely to carry guns, and are more likely to use that gun or be shot in an incident. In one study, 57 percent of people suspected of a gun crime had previously been victims of a shooting. Providing people who are victims of gun violence with treatment and support can dramatically reduce that risk.

We know that violence prevention and intervention saves lives and are essential components of any city’s public safety strategy. Non-law-enforcement violence interruption programs have shown extraordinary results in ending retaliatory violence. In cities across the country, organizations like Players Coalition, along with the Federal government, are embracing these efforts as part of a comprehensive gun violence reduction strategy. As a result, the rates of violence in these cities are going down, yet in Washington, D.C., violence continues to rise as the local government, while making some investments in prevention, has largely put its focus elsewhere.

To prevent violence before it happens, we must recognize that violence is not just a criminal justice issue; it is a public health crisis. It requires a data-driven, public health approach starting with cross-sectoral investments in community violence intervention strategies, frontline CVI workers, and survivors to break the cycles of violence, retaliation, and trauma in their communities. When properly resourced and managed by coordinated community organizations, CVI helps reduce violence and make neighborhoods safe for everyone. They provide resources helping to improve the physical, social, and economic root-causes that drive violence. Washington, D.C. needs to go deeper and invest more in proven public safety models of CVI.

Players Coalition and Peace For DC, an NFL Social Justice grant recipient, are dedicated to supporting evidence-based strategies that stop gun violence before it happens. Peace For DC is a collaborative, local nonprofit that provides proactive solutions to violence by galvanizing community-based organizations, philanthropy, experts, and policymakers in a collective effort to reduce gun violence in the District neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence. On April 17th, I joined Players Coalition advocates alongside Community Justice Action Fund on Capitol Hill as we publicly announced our commitment to investing $1 million to support violence prevention initiatives across the country. The intention of Players Coalition’s funding is to invest grants in local, community-based organizations — like Peace for DC — aimed at reducing gun violence, strengthening protective factors for youth, and being a catalyst for an all-in approach to solving this crisis and building peace in our communities with support across all sectors.

These efforts require and deserve sustained funding in Washington, D.C.’s FY25 budget; however, the proposed budget currently limits these programs and stunts their ability to work effectively. We are urging the city to reconsider its priorities. Each year, gun violence costs the District $2 billion dollars. This conservative estimate does not even take into account the secondary costs — lost wages, tax revenue, property value, and businesses fleeing to safer nearby communities. Investing in the coordinated solutions we know work will pay massive dividends — both in human lives and in savings that can be invested back into the community. This roadmap is the way to keep our city safe.

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Players Coalition

We are an organization working with professional athletes, coaches and owners across leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.