NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring hosted a roundtable discussion in Newport News on gun violence. The event took place just a day after two local students were sent to the hospital following a shooting at Heritage High School.
The roundtable brought together local law enforcement, community leaders and gun violence prevention advocates on the Virginia Peninsula.
“Nobody should be afraid to go to school,” said Herring. “Nobody should be afraid to go to a park and we’re raising a generation of young people who are fearing that they could be a victim of gun violence or a perpetrator.”
The conversation quickly turned to discussing ways to minimize youth violence, specifically how to break teens away from the cycles of violence they see around them.
Community Resource Liaison MaRhonda Echols from the Newport News Police Department said the first step is about showing kids there’s a better life than the violence they’re used to.
“For a young person where that’s all they know, you can’t tell them to stop doing it and not show them something different,” she said. “So, you have to be able to expose them to something different so they could see life on the other side.”
One issue discussed was difficulties with interdepartmental communication about individuals needing intervention to prevent them from getting involved in crime.
“One of the things is probably a well-intentioned law that has created some barriers to the sharing of information that could help people who need it at a critical time,” said Herring.
Others also discussed the need for properly funding grassroots organizations who know the community and, most importantly, know what works to prevent crime.
“They know the community. They’re doing the work and, for some of them, they used to be the offenders,” said Echols. “So they were the ones who were tearing up communities and now they’re on the other side. They’ve been reformed. They’ve served their time and they want to come back and they want to serve the community in a different capacity.”
The Virginia General Assembly recently passed a request for additional funding that will allow the implementation of the gun violence prevention programs.
Just a day prior to the roundtable, two students were shot at Heritage High School and are expected to recover. A suspect is now in custody.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said both victims were 17 years old. A boy was shot in the side of the face and a girl was shot in the lower leg. Drew said both of the two victims’ injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
Tuesday’s roundtable was held at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center which is located at 2410 Wickham Avenue.