Stopping Youth Gun Violence
Ray Duggan, a former gang member, Dr. Megan Ranney a Rhode Island Hospital emergency room doctor, and Myra Latimer, whose son was fatally shot in October 2011.
Ray Duggan was in middle school when he made friends with a crowd of young men who gave him a much-needed sense of belonging and camaraderie.
A few years later, his involvement with that crowd – the Young Bloods gang – left him paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by members of a rival gang.
“I knew right from wrong, but I was more than willing to do anything for them,” Duggan said, referring to the gang of which he no longer is a member. “I looked at them as cool. I don’t know why. I just wanted to show people I wasn’t weak, but you form a bond.”
Replacing the bond that gang members offer to Rhode Island’s youth, Duggan said, is one step in reducing the gun violence that plagues Providence and other Rhode Island urban communities.
Duggan spoke at a Publick Occurrences forum, presented by the Providence Journal in partnership with Rhode Island College and Leadership Rhode Island. The forum featured a panel of experts who offered their solutions to the state’s gun violence problem. Providence has approximately 100 instances of gun violence per year.
Dr. Megan Ranney has treated many gun shot victims as an emergency room doctor at Rhode Island Hospital, the state’s only level one trauma center. Many of those victims, she said, come to the hospital with gun shot wounds more than once.
“They also have a one-in-five chance of coming back dead within five years,” Ranney said. “It’s a cycle.”
Ranney said federal limits on using research money for gun violence studies, along with political polarization, have prevented the adaptation of a public health treatment model in addressing gun violence.
Ranney also believes that better education, limiting the availability of guns, engineering safer guns, creating more awareness through after-school programs and cleaning up and monitoring vacant lots would help the problem.
“We need to create opportunities that allow a culture of nonviolence,” Ranney said.
Steven Pare, Providence public safety commissioner, said that stricter punishments for illegal gun possession and violence also are needed.
He said the Providence Police Department confiscates about 120 to 130 illegal guns every year, but that when a gun is used in a violent occurrence, it takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months to get a ballistic report back.
“We need to put fear into the community,” Pare said. “There’s no fear in Providence about any consequences when you get caught carrying a gun.”
Teny Gross, executive director of the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, pointed out that only 0.3 percent of the city’s youth population is responsible for 70 percent of gun violence. “The challenge is to focus on a small group of people,” he said. “There are a lot of things that need to be done.”