Gun deaths on a historic rise across the country, CDC says | News

LANE COUNTY, Ore. — Gun violence and deaths are up dramatically, and local district attorneys are hoping to encourage change within the community.

This effort comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics saying gun deaths increased 35% across the county during the first year of the pandemic, reaching the highest level in more than 25 years.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Parosa told KEZI these staggering statistics come as no surprise. He said in Lane County, there’s been a tremendous uptick in cases involving gun violence across the board.

“We see temperatures boiling over — people not extending to one another the kind of grace we used to see in years past. And just this general assumption that everyone is out to attack us in some way, so people are firing off and ultimately engaging in more violent criminal behavior,” Parosa said.

Dramatic increase in gun deaths

Parosa said another reason for the uptick in Lane County is due to concerns of COVID spreading throughout the jails.

“Because of the pandemic, and ultimately the need to not have people congregate, got to a point in which the courts were allowing people who were being held pre-trial on serious violent felony charges, ballot Measure 11 offenses, to be released from custody pre-trial on release agreements,” Parosa said.

Parosa said 125 offenders were placed on release agreements, and many of them reoffended. He said he’s beginning to feel that people are not feeling safe in their own community because of the rise in crime.

“It’s perfectly rational for them to feel that way. It’s time to get to a point where we have the ability to feel safe once again,” Parosa said.

He said now it’s time to reassess and put the community’s safety before COVID.

“As we pull out of this pandemic, the balance will shift again, and protecting the community will become a greater priority over the threat of COVID,” Parosa said.

Parosa said it’s also up to local citizens. His office believes Lane County is filled with well-intentioned people and calls on the community to help turn things around.

“We are going to have to call on all Lane County citizens to participate; if this community is not what you want it to be because of a rise of violent crime, it’s time to get active,” Parosa said.

Parosa encourages everyone to also extend grace to one another, to think before they act violent or turn to a gun, and try to see other people’s points of view.

“We are living in a time where tensions in society are extremely high, and people just seem to think the worst out of their fellow man, and conflict arises and goes immediately from an argument to weapons,” Parosa said.

Penny Okamoto, the executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, said there are also many ways to prevent gun violence, starting in your own home.

“If someone feels they absolutely must have a firearm, we recommend having a biometric safe. A palm print or code so it’s safe, but you can open it quickly; otherwise, it can be used against the gun owner,” Okamoto said.

Okamoto said there are ways to help on a legislative level as well.

“If people really want to reduce gun violence in the state of Oregon, go to They can sign up to help pass initiative petition 17, requiring a permit to purchase, training, a completed background and limits high capacity magazines to 10 rounds, which we know saves lives,” Okamoto said.

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