A new national report released today finds that African American and Latinos believe fixing the gun violence crisis in the United States is a pathway to addressing issues with the criminal justice system, including police-community relationships and mass incarceration.

The report, based on research by  Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Lester and Associates, was released alongside a new policy roadmap that lays out a  series of proposed policy solutions for gun violence based on conversations with community stakeholders in Richmond, Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Stockton, California. The research and report grew out of a project launched last year by The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, The Urban Institute and The Joyce Foundation.

“Communities of color bear a disproportionate impact of America’s gun problem, and we need to listen to those most affected by gun violence and make sure their voices are heard as we  formulate solutions,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in a statement. “Getting guns off our streets is as important to fixing our criminal justice system as sentencing and policing reforms.”

The opinion research found that African Americans, in particular, believe that fewer guns on the streets would improve police-community relations and help decrease the number of people in prison.

The study found, for example, that 74 percent of African Americans and Latinos believe that keeping guns out of “the wrong hands” will help lower the prison population, not increase it. And 61 percent of African Americans and 59 percent of Latinos say fewer guns on the street would improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve.

The research included a national survey of 1200 African American and Latino likely voters and  four focus groups with African Americans and Latinos in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

“There are a number of surprising findings in this research, including the fact that a majority of African Americans believe that most people in America don’t care about the gun violence that is affecting communities of color,” said Joel Benenson, CEO of BSG.

“The conventional wisdom that communities of color don’t support new gun laws, because it will add to the current mass incarceration problem, just isn’t true,” said Ron Lester of Lester and Associates. “Communities of color strongly support laws that keep guns out of the wrong hands, along with community-based initiatives to keep their neighborhood safe.”

Key findings included the following:

  • Approximately 4 in 10 African Americans have been personally affected by gun violence, but there’s a perception the rest of the country doesn’t care: 57 percent of African Americans agree that most people in America don’t care about the gun violence plaguing communities of color.
  • More than half of African Americans and a third of Hispanic say they or someone they know have had a negative experience with law enforcement, leading most African Americans to believe that even if you’re following the law, you could still have a problem with the police.
  • More than 80 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of Hispanics agree they “frequently worry about interactions between the police and young men of color” even though a majority (62% of African Americans and 80% of Hispanics) say the police make their communities safer.
  • Three quarters of African Americans believe that most police officers act professionally and “do the right thing” but there are a few bad apples who discriminate based on race.
  • Communities of color strongly support laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands: 84 percent of African Americans and 95 percent of Hispanics agree “the most important thing we can do to reduce gun violence is to make sure we keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
  • While supporting common sense gun laws, people of color believe community-based solutions must also be part of comprehensive gun violence prevent strategy. More than 90% of African Americans and Hispanics support job training, mental health and substance abuse counseling for returning citizens, and programs for young people as ways to reduce gun violence.

The “Road Map” report, informed by the three 2015 convenings of community stakeholders, lays out a series of solutions for policy makers that are tailored to address the specific needs ofcommunities most impacted by gun violence. Among the recommendations in the road map report are reducing easy accessibility of firearms by high-risk people, building better trust between police and communities of color and investing in social services like job training to keep people away from gun violence.

“Gun violence inflicts a devastating double blow on communities of color, first through the violence itself, but all too often again through the justice system’s response to violence,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, President of The Urban Institute. “This report offers strategies developed in partnership with people residing in the very communities facing these challenges. Our hope isthat community, faith, law enforcement, government, and philanthropic leaders can benefit from these insights and help turn them into action.”

“It is clear that communities of color must be at the table along with policy makers, law enforcement and advocacy groups to help shape more holistic approaches to gun violence, policing and mass incarceration. We will continue to do our part to make sure the voices of those most affected are at the table and helping to lead the conversation,” said Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation.

An overview of the findings and the full report are available for download.