While Democrats are the ones in control of Louisville, Kentucky’s government, Republicans in the city are hoping that they can help steer the city in a safer direction. With homicides on pace to match last year’s record high, the Republican members of the city council are holding a series of town hall events across Louisville, and during their first community meeting Tuesday night they heard from a number of activists and experts who touted programs designed to reduce crime without imposing new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
Christopher 2X, an anti-violence activist and head of the nonprofit Game Changers, was a panelist at the town hall. He told attendees that the community needs to invest more in early childhood intervention for kids who routinely deal with the trauma of gun violence.
“Even if these kids have never picked up a gun … we believe that they have been subjected to so much of this negativity as it relates to violent crime, especially in these underserved communities, it’s well worth putting your time and effort into them,” he said.
Alongside medical students from U of L, 2X recently created a youth intervention program called Future Healers. The program provides learning and mentorship opportunities to children exposed to gun violence in their community or their family.
2X said that kind of trauma can have a big impact on kids’ learning and future attainment.
“Today there are kids who’ve never been hit by gunfire that are being impacted in Jefferson County,” he said. “When they try to segue back into the school space, it’s hard for them to focus and learn.”
Louisville’s Chief of Community Building Keith Talley also addressed the need to invest in what he called the root causes of violence. He said arresting people is just tackling the symptom.
Talley said ending gun violence will require an approach that focuses on intervention and investment in impacted communities.
I have to say, I’m impressed by the Metro Council’s Republican Caucus’ willingness to hear from non-conservatives. This wasn’t a meeting where officials were preaching to the choir. Instead, the conservatives hosting the conversation were more interested in listening to what folks had to say than delivering lectures themselves.
One of the most important takeaways from the town hall is the fact that community activists and law enforcement alike don’t seem to think that imposing broad restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of citizens is the right way to address the city’s near-record high homicide rate.
Chief Erika Shields told attendees that the Louisville Metro Police Department is also taking a focused approach to stemming the violence. Shields said police believe a small number of people are committing many of the shootings.
If a small number of people are disproportionately responsible for violent crime, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on that tiny group of violent offenders rather than turning legal gun owners into paperwork criminals through the passage of more gun control laws?
She said much of the violence is “senseless.”
“It may be retaliation for something on social media, it may be looking at someone’s girlfriend wrong,” she said.
Shields said the role of law enforcement is to disrupt gang violence and get some of the worst perpetrators put in jail.
“We have to lock in on the most violent individuals and hold them accountable,” she said. “They’re not going to change their behavior with a hug, in all likelihood.”
Shields said there need to be more alternatives to jail for the majority of people who commit crimes because “they just need an opportunity” or because of mental health issues.
Shields may have lost some of the conservatives in the audience with that last remark, but she does have a point about mental health issues. Not only could Kentucky use more in-patient facilities to treat those in crisis, but as the Republicans on the Louisville Metro Council have argued to Mayor Greg Fischer, local schools need more mental health counselors as well.
Often these types of roundtable or town hall-style events serve no purpose other than to allow politicians to grandstand, but it sounds like this particular meeting may actually have produced a substantive conversation about effective strategies and pragmatic tactics to target violent offenders and reduce violent crime. Public safety and gun control are not the same thing, and it’s good to see that acknowledged by many of the folks working to make Louisville a safer city.