Published: Aug. 22, 2023 By

CU Boulder’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence played a feature role in a panel on gun violence prevention held on Aug. 21 at the Renée Crown Wellness Institute on University Hill. 

Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse welcomed House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries to Colorado for the moderated community conversation, which featured a panel of local leaders and advocates. 

Panelists and attendees discuss gun violence prevention.The topic hits close to home in Boulder, where 10 people were killed in a shooting at the King Soopers store on March 22, 2021. 

“We have to find a path forward to confront the gun violence epidemic that has hit communities all across the country hard with the fierce urgency of now,” said Jeffries. “It’s a national problem and we need a national solution.” 

The event was moderated by Reiland Rabaka, founder and director of CU Boulder’s Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS). Panelists included: Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence; Colleen Simpson, president of Front Range Community College; Michael Dougherty, district attorney, 20th Judicial District; Portia Prescott, president, NAACP CO-MT-WY; and gun violence prevention advocates. 

Kingston used the analogy of an iceberg to talk about the causes of the gun violence epidemic in the United States. 

The visible part of the iceberg is gun violence, including homicides, suicides and mass shootings. Under the surface are the often hidden causes of gun violence: bullying, physical fights and mental health concerns. She noted an alarming statistic that 25% of American high school students have considered suicide in the past year. The risk is worse for girls, and worse yet for Black girls. Go deeper, she said, and you find more social forces at play, such as collective trauma, poverty and racism.

“When the lack of violence prevention infrastructure is combined with easy accessibility of firearms, it’s a lethal combination that fuels gun violence in America,” said Kingston, calling for an adequately funded federal gun violence prevention infrastructure, similar in importance to roads and bridges.

During their visit, Neguse and Jeffries made several stops across campus, meeting with CU President Todd Saliman, CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, CU Head Football Coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, CU Regent Wanda James, as well as members of the school’s faculty and staff. Following the community conversation, the lawmakers toured CU’s new Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS)

The CAAAS, which opened in February, is a one-of-a-kind hub working to expand the focus and field of study centered on understanding the experiences of people of African descent around the world through scholarship, research and engaging classroom experiences for students.