How young people want adults to address gun violence

How young people want adults to address gun violence

Guns are now the number one killer of children and adolescents under 18 in the United States. According to the data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which was analyzed by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Although 2020 marked the first year that more children and teens across the United States of all races and ethnicities were killed by guns than by car crashes, homicide was the number one cause of death among at least one black teen boy and adult over the age of 15. decade According to CDC dataAnd the second Leading cause of death among Hispanic adolescent boys and men ages 15 to 34. This trend was underscored by the recent high-profile murder of an 18-year-old at a gas station Oakland, Calif., and two sons, ages 14 and 15, at High School in Des MoinesIowa.

Despite bearing the brunt of the nation’s gun violence, young people have little formal power to do anything about it, as decisions about how governments enact gun laws and how communities and schools respond to shootings are left primarily to lawmakers, voters, and law enforcement officials. is given .

Related: ‘It took a long time to get here’: Women are stopping gun violence in their communities

Still, preventing violence and getting resources to communities a Top of mind problem For US teenagers and young adults. In an open letter youth voting advocacy group NextGenAmerica sent to Joe Biden ahead of this week’s State of the Union address, young people urged him and Congress to loosen state gun laws and address racial disparities among homicide victims and gunshot wounds. According to a recent poll, most Gen Zs are more concerned about guns than the climate crisis Project unloadedWhile 70% of young voters say US gun control laws should be stricter, According to A 2018 Harvard Institute of Politics poll.

“Politicians should be more involved in the community,” said Greg Novello, a 20-year resident of Richmond, California, a small town north of San Francisco. “There’s no progress to show that they’re helping the community … they need activities, programs, parks where you can go and be safe.”

The Guardian spoke with Novello and several other young Latino and black Californians about what they want to do to help older generations prevent gun violence and navigate the aftermath of youth shootings.

Conversations about school safety must be included Neighborhood violence

Mass shootings on school campuses, although rare, dominate the conversation about student safety. This means that most solutions have been put forward – such as arming teachers, hiring more campus police and Monitor student communication – Shots are rarely reported near schools and in the blocks that students cross to get there.

“When they have these conversations it’s more about gun violence in schools and police using guns, not what happens in the neighborhood,” said Liz Ncilu, a 17-year-old student at King/Drew Magnet School in Los Angeles. The school is just outside of Watts, a majority black and Latino neighborhood Residents have long struggled To stop shooting and help victims.

“I would love to hear someone ask how we feel about living in the neighborhood we live in or where our school is now. I think teachers and principals [should have] A school-wide conversation,” said Ilysia Mendez, another 17-year-old King/Drew student.

Nsilu and Mendez have a place to talk about the shooting and gender-based violence that affects them at the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP), a group that works to mentor and support students in South Los Angeles schools.

Local violence prevention and youth development groups like WLP regularly seek out students who have experienced violence to help them work through their feelings about off-campus shootings. And educators across the United States are working to make it a part of the conversation about gun violence Classroom curriculum. Still, these programs are rare.

“Schools sometimes take their share,” said 21-year-old Richmond resident Tarek Hill.

When he was in high school, a student was shot and killed, and administrators organized a campus-wide silence and allowed students to leave class to decompress at the student health center, Hill recalled.

He didn’t feel safe at school because he knew that community violence could spill over onto school grounds, especially since some students carry guns because they feel unsafe in their neighborhood. “If my friend gets killed, I feel like I’m on the sidelines,” Hill said.

He wants schools to find a balance between keeping students safe and not criminalizing those who carry because they rightfully feel unsafe in their communities. Tactics like backpack searches and student arrests aren’t the answer, he said: “We don’t want to back down.”

Intergenerational connections help – if they come without judgement

Connections between older and younger generations can be a central element in preventing gun violence. Whether a teacher, school counselor or professional violence intervention worker, students the Guardian spoke to said they look to adults in their lives and communities to help them lobby officials and navigate the complex emotions that come with young people’s exposure to gun violence. . .

But young people also want to see adults be more inclusive in their engagement with young people, including those who already carry guns, are incarcerated or need immediate intervention to prevent them from shooting or shooting someone else.

“They are the most at risk, so why exclude them? You can change them,” Beverly Obed, a 15-year-old King/Drew student, said of the need for programs to reach her most vulnerable peers. “Excluding them can lead them further down the drain, getting stuck [a bad] The situation is because they can’t get out because they are excluded when they try to reach.

Novello, 20, of Richmond, has first-hand experience of this exclusion and the consequences of having nowhere to turn.

“I grew up hearing gunshots every day,” he said. “As a child, I needed more people to talk to and listen to [fear of] Getting in trouble.”

Novello started carrying a gun for protection as a teenager. When he would talk to school staff or other adults, he said, he carried the fear and daily trauma he faced and needed help to resolve, and would skip school.

“School counselors will offer help or resources, but when you talk to them they find fault. [with me] And say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have done this or that,'” Novello said. “It made me feel like I needed to keep everything to myself and bottle it up, and it messes with your head a little bit. There are a lot of emotions and sometimes it’s hard to manage, and finally when you have no one to talk to [negative] thing.”

He dropped out of high school his junior year and a few months later, at age 18, he was shot eight times while hanging out with friends in San Pablo, a town just outside of Richmond. While in the hospital, he became involved with the Ryse Center, a Richmond-based violence prevention and youth development nonprofit. Now, she says, she’s getting the judgment-free mental health help she needs in her early teens.

“Older people should think about what programs helped them back then … and what they gave to help the community,” Novello said.

Law enforcement is not always the solution

For many students in South Los Angeles and the Bay Area, police are a questionable solution to the problem of gun violence. They described seeing police use force in their communities, which are disproportionately affected by gun violence, instead of helping people find solutions to youth involvement in gangs and gun violence.

When a shooting occurs on or near a campus, administrators and lawmakers often defer to the police to keep students and staff safe and secure. But this reliance on the police has resulted in disproportionate numbers of blacks and students Arrested on campusThus fueling the school-to-prison pipeline, Parents and students said.

“This upsets me the most: the police using their force on us, taking advantage of their position because of what’s happening in our community with gang violence,” said Mendez, of King/Drew.

Campus dynamics with a history of police shootings of unarmed black and Latino people make it difficult for students to imagine what role law enforcement will play in local violence interventions such as healing circles and community meetings among people who have lost loved ones. Surviving violence or being shot.

Related: Their student was killed in the firing. Now two California teachers are teaching kids about gun violence

“It’s not going to work for the police to be in a healing circle because so many people in Los Angeles have trauma, from being shot by the police, to being chased by the police,” Ncilu added.

That lack of trust means creating solutions to prevent and respond to gun violence is a task left to community members who deal with the fallout from shootings, Hill said.

“I’m not comfortable [police] The only help I see from them at all is escorting people to a funeral,” he said of how he has seen police engage with victims of gun violence. “The community around us is responsible, communities should hold each other accountable.”

Youth need more resources to heal from gun violence

Jason Madison’s first encounter with gun violence was early in life. When she was nine, Madison’s mother and younger nephew were shot in a car in their hometown of Richmond. Both survived the shooting, which Madison witnessed; His mother was hit in the thigh and his then two-year-old nephew was shot in the leg and was briefly in critical condition.

Madison, now 22, was not physically injured in the shooting, but said she was left to deal with emotional trauma and unanswered questions.

“Watching someone get shot even though they’re not dead is still trauma,” he said. “I dealt with it alone and I wish I had support … I needed someone to talk to and relate to and help me through the pain and trauma I went through.”

Through the Ryse Center, Madison is working through her trauma through poetry and counseling sessions. And while she’s grateful to have these assets now, she wishes it hadn’t taken most of her life to get them. He wants more organizations like Rice to expand their reach to reach people directly and indirectly affected by gun violence.

“As soon as my mom and nephew were shot, I feel like somebody — the ambulance people or the police — should have given us some kind of counseling,” Madison said. “Kids need help. We go through a lot. We go through many things in our life. We need more resources.”

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