On Aug. 21, the University of Colorado Boulder hosted a community discussion on the university’s campus regarding gun violence and potential steps forward towards its prevention.
The discussion featured a panel composed of notable politicians such as the U.S. House Democratic Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.
The conversation opened with an acknowledgment of Boulder’s own history with gun violence, such as the 2021 shooting that killed 10 people at a local King Soopers.
“This is something that has impacted Boulder as well, so it’s not just something national,” said panelist Dr. Reiland Rabaka, a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at CU Boulder.
Rabaka referred to the ‘Boulder bubble,’ the city’s reputation as a fairly idyllic, safe community. Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty also touched upon this concept.
“There is no community immune from gun violence and in Boulder we know that all too well,” Dougherty said.
The discussion also focused on potential root causes of the nation’s uptick in gun violence.
“We use the metaphor of the tip of an iceberg to talk about and help us understand those root causes of gun violence,” said Dr. Beverly Kingston, the director of CU’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
“When you think about that iceberg, the tip is gun violence. It’s the homicides, the suicide, the mass shootings, the things that make the nightly news,” Kingston said.
According to an analysis by Pew Research Center, more than 80% of murders in the U.S. in 2021 involved a gun. For suicides in the same year, almost 55% involved a gun. Kingston continued on to describe the issues that she thinks need higher media attention and political focus when it comes to the issues driving gun violence.
“Then we can go even deeper underwater, we can look at those social structural forces, those broader forces like poverty, racism and collective trauma,” Kingston said.
Members of the nonpartisan volunteer group Moms Demand Action attended the panel and were among those for whom the lack of attention beyond the tip of the iceberg was an important talking point.
“City gun violence does not get the attention that mass shootings do, does not get the attention that it needs to,” said Christina Gardner, the local group membership lead and survivor network lead for Moms Demand Action. “Definitely mentioning city gun violence, but not just mentioning it, but also actually ensuring that our representatives and that our leaders are focusing on it. That is what the focus should be.”
Another issue that was discussed as a potential root cause of gun violence was the accessibility of guns both on a state and federal level.
“We have 4% of the world’s population, but more than 40% of the world’s [civilian-owned] guns,” Neguse said. “We believe that means that we have probably about 400 million guns circulating throughout this country.”
Jeffries, who noted that he was speaking on behalf of House Democrats, also discussed the nature and usage of guns within the U.S.
“We also believe that they are weapons of war that have no place in a civilized society,” Neguse said. “These are weapons of war that are not used to hunt deer. They’re used to hunt human beings.”
The panel also shed light on recent triumphs towards improving gun safety throughout the nation.
“We’ve been providing free gun locks and free gun safes in the community,” Doherty said. “…In our office, and I know other places throughout Boulder County, we have restorative justice and diversion programs, where we have the opportunity on low level offenses to help kids get on a better track.”
“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,” Doherty said.
Contact CU Independent News Editor Jessi Sachs at firstname.lastname@example.org