A group of teens from the Greater Hartford area spent their summer talking about and brainstorming solutions to gun violence within their communities. The Summer Youth Leadership Academy presented their solutions this week to city officials, community members and law enforcement under four umbrellas: accountability, preventing violence between youth, rehabilitation, and changing our violent culture.
Their work comes amidst a violent summer in Hartford with more than a dozen shootings and at least six fatalities since June.
Jerren Langford, a rising freshman at Windsor High School, said he remembers the impact of 16-year-old Felipe Lopez’s death in May. Lopez also attended Windsor High School.
“Because he was so young and he was part of a community, it sent negative ripples because people were close friends with him,” Langford said. “To be so young and to die, it’s shocking.”
Students from the accountability group proposed solutions in the form of fines--if a teenager is caught doing something wrong then the parent would have to pay a fine, something they say would serve as a deterrent.
Another student spoke about the need for adults to be held accountable for putting guns into the hands of teens, using them to carry out shootings so that the adult can avoid criminal charges.
Within the rehabilitation group, students discussed the prevalence of PTSD among their peers, sharing the story of a friend in the group who ducks if he hears a car door slam loudly after being at a party where there was a shooting.
“Not many teens accept the fact that some of them may have it, because of the conditions that they live in and it’s not cool in the society for them to accept that that’s what they’re going through,” said Dahmarre Bournes. “It’s important for us to come together and talk about it.”
Bournes also pointed out the lack of rehabilitation and counseling resources in schools that are surrounded by violence.
“If a kid is killed in the inner city there’s no support support services but in Wethersfield or Windsor they’ll have support in schools for a week,” Bournes said. “In the inner city they don’t attend to that, they just act like it doesn’t happen. It’s important to talk to them and tell them that they’re not alone.”
In the audience for the presentation was First District representative John Larson.
“They didn’t shy away from the tough stuff. They talked about accountability. They talked about parenting. They talked about peer pressure,” Larson said.
Students derived their solutions by asking the questions, “But why?” to explore the root cause, and “But why here?” to assess location conditions that spark and perpetuate violence.
They’ll continue to research solutions for gun violence within their community through Hartford Communities That Care’s Youth Leadership Academy.