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Five Experts Offer Reason to Hope in Fight Against Gun Violence

From New York to Pennsylvania to Florida, from Nevada to California to Oregon, eight people were killed and dozens injured during at least 10 mass shootings last weekend alone. The violence added to the year's growing toll of mass shootings, which stood at 154 as of Sunday, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Experts consider easy access to guns a root cause of the violence, and open-carry states lower the barrier for people to own and carry guns in public.

Still, the spike in violence since summer 2020 has been general, across cities and states with lax and strict gun laws, with progressive and conservative prosecutors, as well as Republican and Democratic mayors and governors, CNN reports.

CNN interviewed five experts who see possible solutions and reasons for hope:

-- Cedric Huntley of the Nonviolence Institute in Rhode Island said there's no room for despair in the fight against gun violence. "I have an outreach and intervention team here and on a daily basis we talk about what's happening out there," he said. "We talk about ways that we can intervene but we can't have hopelessness." Institute staff works with law enforcement to mediate potential gang conflicts, provide mentors for young people at risk of turning to gangs, respond immediately to the scenes of shootings and stabbings and hospital emergency rooms in an effort to prevent conflicts from escalating, and match up victims with community services. -- Journalist Alex Kotlowitz, journalist and author, says, "The street violence that we see in our cities, the vast majority of it happens in deeply distressed neighborhoods ... That's no coincidence. We've got to recommit ourselves to finding ways to fortify and rebuild these communities -- all the obvious things, which is affordable housing, accessible health care, better schools, community centers. That's the part that drives me crazy. All the things we already know but we're unable or unwilling to address it in a really robust manner." Kotlowitz lauded the work of groups such as READI -- or Rapid Employment and Development Initiative -- which makes available "violence interrupters" who jump into simmering conflicts in an attempt to de-escalate them before they erupt into bloodshed. The group also provides trauma counseling. -- Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute think tank, said the declining number of police officers on the streets is an obstacle to combating rising homicides and shooting. "One of the things that just doesn't get talked about enough is that even pre-2020 there was a huge recruitment and retention problem going on in police departments around the country, particularly in urban police departments," he said. Some police departments have raised the alarm on current and future staffing levels, citing COVID 19, low pay, the climate for law enforcement, and local reform efforts that are making recruitment and retention difficult. Baltimore aims to be one of the first cities to address police staffing shortages by hiring civilian investigators "We need to figure out how to attract and retain good police officers in places with significant crime problems," Mangual said. .

-- Thomas Abt of the Council on Criminal Justice said that even as homicides continue to rise, local governments can take steps to reduce violence that don't require legislation or huge budgets. "That's where the hopefulness is, which is there are solutions at the micro level that cities can take right now ... They're hyper focused. They're focused on the highest risk people and the highest risk places. The people who are most likely to pick up a gun and use it in the places where that's most likely to happen. Some of those solutions involve law enforcement and some of them involve treatment services and community based outreach." -- Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, agrees that community violence intervention is a complement, not a substitute, to good policing. "Their capacity is not near what you would want to really address this problem," he said of the community-based programs. "They largely have been funded ... as demonstration projects like, oh, we got some little extra cash from this grant or that grant, let's put a program here or there and call it a day." He adds, "We tend to talk about accountability only on the side of law enforcement ... I think the same set of professional standards should apply to the community work as well... Give them the same kind of benefits that you give law enforcement. They're putting their lives on the line. Right now we've tried to do everything on the cheap. And they're effectively miracle workers."


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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