Gun violence prevention starts with community work

OpEd with Giffords:

BY THE AGE of 13, Jose had already been arrested for a violent crime.

Like so many teenagers, he longed for connection, community, and caring role models. He eventually found a community that would have his back. Unfortunately, it also came with a life associated with drugs and violence – challenges too often the result of the systemic inequities that create under-resourced communities.

Then, Jose was shot. And, he shot back. By 15, he was convicted as an adult. Now incarcerated, Jose became determined to pursue positive change. He surrounded himself with people who wanted to help him achieve that. He relentlessly pursued his education with the support of a tutor, and, eventually, he was released.

Today, returning back to one of the facilities he was incarcerated in, it’s his job to build relationships with young people who are going through the same struggles that he went through: from grappling with the larger issues of poverty and racism to the more direct challenge of finding that one caring adult deemed trustworthy. He is committed to being that role model to young people so they know it’s possible to build a new future.Jose is a streetworker. A violence interrupter. A homegrown peacemaker.

If we want to end gun violence, professionals like Jose with lived experiences must be a part of our strategy.

Read Full OpEd on Commonwealth Magazine