Stamford Advocate

A different strategy for halting gun deaths


The countdown to completing COVID-19 vaccine distributi­on is a somewhat false ending to the horrors of the past year. Dreams of reunions, vacations and parties are understand­able, but belie the reality that the pandemic is leaving a scorched trail of trauma.

Many people lost jobs, homes, a sense of security. COVID and its social side effects were rocket fuel for anxiety.

Among other things, such emotions led to impulsive purchases of firearms.

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, Connecticu­t has worked to be a leader in gun safety laws, even as the nation’s capital reliably failed. But Connecticu­t’s successes weren’t enough to halt bullets in the streets of its cities.

Another grim reminder came in recent days with the deaths of 3-year-old Randell Tarez Jones in a drive-by shooting in Hartford and 16-year-old Ja’Mari Preston in what police are calling a related shooting incident. Democratic state senators from Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport responded by calling out the state’s failings to invest resources in community organizati­ons.

In a news release, state Sens. Marilyn Moore, DBridgepor­t, Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, and Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, pointed to data from Hearst Connecticu­t Media’s investigat­ion, “Death by Gun,” which analyzed gun deaths of the previous decade. It revealed that some 10 percent of state residents killed by firearms during those 10 years were 25 and younger and from the state’s three largest cities.

It’s only getting worse. The number of homicides in Connecticu­t increased by 30 percent in 2020, according to the state’s chief medical examiner.

The pandemic has expanded the definition of the everyday hero, but there is seldom recognitio­n of the work being done in community groups that strive to see the bigger picture, as well as the smaller ones. These are the people who don’t flinch from looking for potential triggers of violence.

Their successes are never publicly known. We can’t collect data on how many lives have been saved by the agencies.

Moore made some bold, but welcome, proposals.

With President Joe Biden pondering a $5 billion investment in such community groups across the nation, Moore suggests the agencies should be empowered to determine how the money is spent without federal interferen­ce.

Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, promoted the idea with the reasoning that the agencies “are doing this kind of boots on the ground community work that don’t involve traditiona­l policing models.”

CT Against Gun Violence has pushed for Gov. Ned Lamont to form an Office of Community Gun Violence Prevention to seek funding and invest it in community strategies to reduce gun violence in the state’s urban centers.

The unsung heroes at community agencies should lead this charge, with clear channels of communicat­ion to local law enforcemen­t.

An ending appears to be in sight for the pandemic, but no vaccine will halt the fallout. Unless drastic actions are taken, gun violence will continue to traumatize Connecticu­t’s cities.

Their successes are never publicly known. We can’t collect data on how many lives have been saved by the agencies.

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