Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel elected officials, health experts discuss gun violence awareness, prevention

In observance of National Gun Violence Awareness day, Anne Arundel County’s Gun Violence Intervention Team along with medical professionals addressed the issue Thursday as one concerning public health.

From January to April of this year, the county recorded five homicides, 10 suicides and 55 injuries related to firearms, according to data provided by the team during a webinar Thursday night.


County Executive Steuart Pittman proclaimed Friday as Gun Violence Safety Awareness day to raise awareness about the ongoing gun violence the county faces.

The webinar and the intervention team flow out of the Gun Prevention Task Force created by Pittman after the 2018 Capital Gazette shooting, which killed five people. During the online event, one of three sessions planned Thursday and Friday, he said most members of the commission were gun owners or grew up in households with guns.


He said he isn’t against gun ownership but wants to to separate guns from the people who intend to do harm.

“The issue was how to make sure that people who are prone to violence or who have threatened violence don’t have guns,” Pittman said.

Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, health officer for Anne Arundel County, is included in this task force and said gun violence is a public health issue.

“Gun violence causes death, injury and heartbreak in our county or state and across the country,” Kalyanaraman said. “When we think of gun violence mass shootings grab the headlines but there’s a daily drumbeat of homicides, suicides and injuries in our county.”

Mayor Gavin Buckley joined the conversation and said the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a particularly bad year for gun violence because of social isolation and economic uncertainty that plagued the community.

“Gun violence is a public health issue and one we hear about regularly from our residents,” Buckley said. “Too many guns on the street, too many gunshots in the community, too much trauma for our children and for survivors.”

Buckley said preventing gun violence can be prevented by looking beyond policing.

“We have to give residents resources to find better ways to resolve problems, to lift up economic opportunity, to help with substance use, public health and mental health,” Buckley said.


Dr. Paul Nestadt, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, specializes in trying to understand suicide. Nestadt said suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people and one of the leading causes of death overall in the United States.

“The majority of firearm deaths are suicide deaths so when we’re talking about firearm violence, mass shootings are important to pay attention to,” he said. “They’re tragic events, homicides are tragic events but the majority of firearm deaths are suicides, something that we can intervene on.”

According to Nestadt, attempted suicide attempts are impulsive and made based on availability. Suicide survival rates are much lower when attempted with a firearm as opposed to pills or poison.

Nestadt said rural counties and states have a slightly higher suicide rate than urban ones because of greater availability of guns. He said there are factors that increase the risk of suicide that cannot be fixed such as a family history of suicide and terminal illness but other factors, such as social isolation, poverty and access, can be addressed.

The series of seminars at 1 p.m. Friday with an intervention partner workshop.