U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, left, and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries talk about gun violence prevention during a roundtable at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder on Aug. 21, 2023. (Chloe Anderson for Colorado Newsline)
U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries joined U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and local stakeholders for a conversation on gun violence prevention Monday in Boulder.
Representatives from various gun violence prevention organizations as well as leaders in education answered questions about what leads to incidents of gun violence and what should happen to properly address its root causes. The University of Colorado Boulder hosted the event, which was moderated by Reiland Rabaka, founder and director of the university’s Center for African and African American Studies.
Jeffries and Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, thanked the families of gun violence victims in the room for turning their “anguish into action” and advocating to prevent future incidents of gun violence. Families of victims from the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton as well as the Boulder King Soopers shooting attended the roundtable.
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“We have to find a path forward to confront the gun violence epidemic that has hit you here in this community hard, and communities all across the country hard, with the fierce urgency of now in the most comprehensive way,” Jeffries, a New York Democrat, said. “It’s a national problem, and so we need a national solution.”
He noted that while the U.S. only accounts for 4% of the world’s population it’s also home to more than 40% of the world’s guns.
“We’ve all been called upon to serve in different capacities for such a time as this,” Jeffries said, adding of Republicans: “We’ve got diabolical intensity on the other side — I say to folks back in Washington, we have to be prepared to match and exceed that diabolical intensity with righteous intensity.”
Potential solutions Jeffries talked about include universal background checks and assault weapons bans. The Democratic-controlled Colorado Legislature killed a proposed assault weapons ban during the last legislative session.
We’ve got diabolical intensity on the other side — I say to folks back in Washington, we have to be prepared to match and exceed that diabolical intensity with righteous intensity.
– House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries
Beverly Kingston, director of the university’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, said tools for preventing gun violence need to become a sustainable part of the country’s standard infrastructure. This can include social and emotional learning, mental health support and intervention programs, Kingston said.
“We need to think about this as something that we build into our society,” Kingston said. “We have this lack of infrastructure, combined with the magnitude of firearms that are easily accessible on the streets. It fuels the gun violence that we’re seeing in America today.”
Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action, highlighted the successes her organization helped achieve in Colorado, including universal background checks, an extreme risk protection order law, a ghost gun ban, waiting periods for gun purchases, and raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. The new minimum age law has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.
Despite the failure of the assault weapons ban, the Colorado Legislature passed four gun violence prevention measures this year. The new laws raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21, impose a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, expand the state’s extreme risk protection order law, and make it easier for gun violence survivors to sue the gun industry.
McCarron said going into the next session, she wants to prioritize gun dealer licensing, permits to purchase guns and an assault weapons ban. But, given the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, she said she’s concerned that recent legislative gun violence prevention wins in Colorado will be challenged in court.
Shawna Fritzler, executive director of the DeAngelis Center for Community Safety, said talking about gun violence prevention and preparedness across different sectors of society is hard, because everyone does it differently. She said there needs to be standardized best practices when it comes to threat assessment and management so that everyone, whether they be in law enforcement or education, has the same understanding.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said his main question about the root cause of gun violence relates to how kids get their hands on guns in the first place. He said it’s also important to meet people where they are, which is why his office has distributed free gun locks and safes to the community.
“I know we’re here today to talk about something heavy and difficult, but it’s also the first time in my career as a prosecutor where I feel like we have momentum for change,” Daugherty said.
Neguse agreed with Dougherty, highlighting the progress Congress has made with legislation such as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
“It is the first step, not the last step, and there’s a lot more left for us to do,” Neguse said. “I think building partnerships at the local county, state and federal level, really is the only way to do it … I have no doubt that we’re going to make progress on this in the years ahead.”
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