WASHINGTON — Members of Congress and crime experts Tuesday stressed evidence-based reforms and ending an urban “school to prison pipeline” as ways to reduce gun violence.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., hosted a youth violence prevention summit in the Capitol Visitors Center on behalf of the House’s recently appointed Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
The theme of the summit, according to presenters, was proven gun law reform based on accurate testing and evidence.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., distanced himself from arguments by the firearms lobby that reform would mean taking guns away from responsible owners.
“No one’s getting my guns, and I don’t expect to take anyone else’s,” he said.
Dr. Dewey G. Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist and professor at University of Virginia, said his focus in gun violence reduction is prevention, not response. Armed guards and teachers at school would only constitute a reaction if a crisis arose, he said.
“Shooting the other guy before he shoots you is not prevention,” Cornell said.
Instead, speakers emphasized dealing with crises before they occur. Dr. Aaron Kupchik, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, outlined a series of steps he said schools could to take help prevent shootings.
The first step, he said, is to get rid of armed guards and a regular police presence. These “rigid, zero-tolerance policies” alter the climate to include a feeling of crime and danger. And according to Kupchik, it’s better to give teachers training in interpersonal relations than firearms. Building positive teacher-student relationships and allowing students to have a say in their own school government reduces problem behavior and school violence, he said.
Newport News, Va., Sheriff Gabriel A. Morgan also criticized the increased presence of guns in schools and advocated for solutions like youth intervention programs and mental health care that may take longer to implement, but have been better tested.
“Many people don’t believe in evidence-based prevention because they want a microwave solution—they want to see it now,” Morgan said. “Bringing more guns into schools is not a solution.”