Pastor urges President Biden to sign executive order declaring violence a public health crisis

Calling it the “No. 1 problem of the 21st century,” an Illinois pastor who lost his son to gun violence in 2018, urged President Joe Biden Wednesday to sign an executive order declaring violence a “national public health crisis.”

“We continue to call President Joseph Biden to acknowledge American violence for what it is. American violence is a national public health crisis. Violence is the No. 1 problem of the 21st century,” declared Pastor Anthony Williams, who founded King International Ministry.

Williams and a team of anti-violence activists have embarked on an 11-day march for their cause from Chicago to Washington, D.C., wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “We Want to Live.” He’s also hoping to arrive at the nation’s seat of government by July 4 to promote his message.

“President Biden has said that America is back, I beg to differ with President Biden. Until we address the issue of violence, then none of us are safe. So we are walking to D.C. because we wear these T-shirts, ‘We Want to Live.’ We want to live safe, everyone in America. We want to live healthy, everyone in America, and we want to live without … fear,” Williams said Wednesday.

His activism has already resulted in legislation in Illinois with HB 158 that was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, which created the Underlying Causes of Crime and Violence Study Act that will study how to identify high-violence communities and prioritize state dollars to address issues related to violence, The State Journal-Register reported

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. | White House/Adam Schultz

“Violence has plagued communities, predominantly poor and distressed communities in urban settings, which have always treated violence as a criminal justice issue, instead of a public health issue,” the Illinois legislation notes.

Once the study is done, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Services will have to submit their findings to the State General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2021.

Williams’ message aligns with that of the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics which argued in 2018 that violence is indeed a public health crisis and some medical experts think it should be treated as a disease.

“Violence, overall, has become a public health crisis. The three leading causes of death in the United States for people ages 15-34 are unintentional injury, suicide and homicide. These violent deaths are, more often than not, directly associated with firearms. The U.S. has a homicide rate seven times higher than other high-income countries, with homicides committed by firearms being 25 times higher than in other high-income countries,” then editor Lilliana Freire-Vargas wrote.

“To continue to accept violence as a normal behavior, something is wrong with the psyche of us as American citizens,” Williams said.

“This is not a black problem, a white problem, red problem, yellow problem. This is an American problem,” he continued before suggesting that he voted for Biden because he expects him to take a stand on the issue.

“President Biden, we appeal to you as American citizens, President Biden, I voted for you, sign the executive order on American violence as a public health crisis. Follow the lead of the state of Illinois,” he added.