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Experts' Long-Term Strategies Try To Prevent Youth Gun Violence

Intervention and prevention strategies are keys to reduce gun violence in youths under 25, says Kei­land Henderson of the group Gun Vio­lence Reduc­tion Strate­gies.

Henderson concedes that prevention, focusing on "the underlying causes and risk factors that lead to violence," is a long-term strategy that may not produce results for five to 15 years. According to Henderson violence prevention focuses on “the underlying causes and risk factors that lead to violence.”

Henderson and other pan­elists from the Nation­al Insti­tute for Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Reform (NICJR) discussed build­ing a sus­tain­able strat­e­gy for reduc­ing gun vio­lence during an online seminar hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. The seminar discussed effec­tive gun vio­lence reduc­tion strategies for youth jus­tice prac­ti­tion­ers, com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice providers, local government part­ners and law enforcement.

Some of the most common risk factors that affect juveniles include substance use, school absenteeism, homelessness, and adverse childhood experiences, Henderson said.

These factors can be traumatic to brain development and affect how the body responds to stress, resulting in individuals at an elevated risk for being a victim or perpetrator of gun violence.

One strategy that attempts to reduce risk factors is multi-systemic therapy (MST), which features family members, peers, and loved ones building a support system around the child


The Becoming a Man program, organized by Youth Guidance, works to “improve the social and emotional and behavioral competencies of youth," typically in the 7th to 12th grades, through cognitive behavioral therapy and mentoring.

The Forgotten Third, founded by Karl­ton Har­ris, is a program that attempts to reduce risk factors that can turn into gun violence.

The program focuses on higher-risk youth, promoting meaningful connections by meeting young people where they are “physically, spiritually, and emotionally,” said the group's Tay­lor Max­ie.

It uses what is called a PIER Model to target significant causes of gun violence. PIER stands for Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement, and Re-entry.

The Forgotten Third also uses cognitive behavior treatment because " a lot of the problems that our young adults encounter are beneath the surface," Maxie said. "It's the thoughts, it's the feelings. It's the beliefs, it's the emotions."

Maxie said authentic interaction and dialogue should be stressed to further community-building network opportunities. The goal is to increase family engagement, educational support, and youth opportunities through mentoring and guidance.


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