SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Gun violence is up across the country, as well as here in Utah. It includes homicide, suicide, accidental shootings, mass shootings, gang shootings, domestic violence, and more. According to a fact sheet from the White House, homicides rose 30 percent and gun assaults rose eight percent in large cities in 2020. Here at home, homicides have increased by 127 percent over the last 10 years, according to the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. Approximately 40 percent of those homicides are related to domestic violence. In the last 12 years, suicides by gun rose by 30 percent. 

Just this past Saturday, a 13-year-old teen died in an accidental shooting in West Jordan after his friend snuck a gun out and unintentionally discharged the weapon. On July 9th, a 7-year-old was fatally shot by an intoxicated neighbor through the wall of an apartment in Heber. On June 13th, a 22-year-old man was killed during a confrontation outside of a nightclub. Between May 29th and June 6th, three people were fatally shot in separate house parties in Salt Lake City and South Jordan.

Back on June 23rd, President Biden pledged sweeping changes to firearms laws and unveiled new steps to help bring the numbers down. While gun violence is being addressed on the national stage, local leaders are discussing it here at home too. Salt Lake City Police implemented a crime control plan to reduce violence crime in the area, all while dealing with an officer shortage. Rep. Rex Shipp is one of several lawmakers considering reintroducing gun violence prevention legislation during this upcoming session. His bill would offer firearm safety as an elective class to high school students.

Angel Valdez, who lost her mom to a gang-related shooting in Kearns back in 2001 joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. She talked about the impact of losing her mom to gun violence at just 18 months of age, her feelings about her mother’s killer being up for parole soon, and what she thinks needs to be done to combat this issue.

Nancy Halden, communications director of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah discussed the latest data and statistics in the state, what some of the reasons may be for the recent increase, and what Utahns can do on an individual-level to help combat gun violence.

Rep. Brian King of Salt Lake City and Rep. Kera Birkeland of Morgan discussed where Utah stands compared to the rest of the country when it comes to gun violence legislation, some of the local legislative efforts that have taken place, why this topic is such a contentious issue in the state, how we can come to a middle ground legislatively to make Utahns feel more safe, and what they think it’s going to take to gain more support for preventative efforts.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Valdez, Halden, Rep. King, and Rep. Birkeland, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.