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Concerned families, community leaders fill church meeting on gun violence

New Hope Baptist Church hosted a community meeting on youth violence, focused on solutions – concerned families, students and community leaders filled the church.

DENVER — Families spent a night of their spring break talking about gun violence in Denver. New Hope Baptist Church off Colorado Boulevard was filled with concerned parents, kids and community members nearly a week after a student shot two administrators inside East High School (EHS).

The purpose of the evening was to talk about solutions. At times the conversation became emotional. Nearly every person on the panel has been impacted by gun violence in some way.

“Many conversations dealing with who is responsible for this. We all are,” said John Bailey, chair of the Colorado Black Round Table and organizer of Tuesday’s discussion.

The panel included speakers such as Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas, psychologists and youth violence prevention workers.

“With respect to looking at how we address a fundamental problem that too many dangerous people have access to too many weapons,” said Weiser. “We know safe gun storage makes a difference whether it is in people’s vehicles, in people’s homes.”

Almost every seat in the auditorium was filled. The audience came to listen to their experiences and learn. The conversation addressed why kids hurt others, and themselves, and what can be done to make sure every child gets home safely.

“It doesn’t cost any money to teach our children in school how to handle, how to handle their sense of isolation,” said Dr. Anthony Young, Denver-Rocky Mountain Association of Black Psychologists.

Addressing trauma and providing more resources for mental health was a big topic.

“It’s all boys. All boys of color. 75% of those boys that are in trouble have a gun charge. And I ask why? To defend myself but it was also easy to access the guns,” said Dr. Marjorie Lewis, a behavioral economist.

Five weeks before the shooting inside EHS, someone shot and killed 16-year-old Luis Garcia at an intersection near campus while he sat in his car. The boy was laid to rest days before this second shooting.

A student at East who was a part of the panel shared what young people need right now.

“Feel safe. Be able to go to school, and be in our community, and not have to worry about gun violence. Anything like that,” said the student.

Members of the panel agreed the issue of safety and gun violence in the community is on everyone, not just elected leaders. They applauded adults who have committed their time to develop relationships with young people.

One of those people is a dean of students at East High, Kamaree Perkins.

He has lost too many students to gun violence.

“I worked with this kid his senior year, 2020, he graduated. He was just at the rec center. He was shot six times,” said Perkins.

After years of trauma, he thinks we have become numb to the violence. He still puts in the work to help.

“I was in the gym at 11 o’clock this morning with six boys at East, you know. It is hard for me to go back in there but it is spring break and they need an outlet,” said Perkins.

Very little of the conversation was about the reintroduction of school resource officers in Denver Public Schools (DPS). Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said having officers in schools is a temporary fix.

“Certainly, I believe we needed to be immediately responsive to the concerns that were loudly expressed by students and parents,” Thomas said. “This shouldn’t be a discussion about school resource officers. That is certainly a temporary fix for now but that is not the solution.”

He said half of the police officers returning to DPS schools were former school resource officers. According to Thomas, the reason not all former school resource officers are coming back is that a number of them have been promoted.

“Their purpose is to not do random searches of students in schools. Their purpose is not to roam the halls and be an authoritative figure. Their purpose is to engage with students in a healthy way,” said Thomas. 



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