- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2019

The mother of a young man who was gunned down in Southeast in August pleaded Thursday at a D.C. Council hearing for something to be done about the disproportionate amount of violence her community faces and the lack of resources it has to address it.

“My kids are mentally messed up and I am too, and I can’t even explain it,” said Huleana Colson, mother of Delante Colson, 25, who was shot to death on Aug. 4.

With tears in her eyes, Ms. Colson noted that two other shootings happened that night and that her son had to be transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Northwest because there isn’t a trauma center near where she lives in Southeast.

“The pain and the trauma that your children are experiencing, that you are experiencing, your extended family, your friends, your neighbors is exactly why we have to focus on this gun violence because the act of pulling a trigger creates so much pain and loss and trauma,” Council member Charles Allen said to Ms. Colson.

Mr. Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, led Thursday’s hearing.

Gun violence prevention advocates, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, a youth mental health worker, and members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. attorney general’s office testified about firearms trafficking, how to respond to violence and the Ghost Guns Prohibition Amendment Act of 2019.

“Ghost guns” are firearms without serial numbers that people can assemble and disassemble themselves, thus evading metal detectors and firearm registration systems.

Assistant Police Chief Robert Contee said about 2,000 illegal guns are recovered each year in the District — 40% of which come from Virginia.

There have been 131 homicides in the District this year, an 11% increase from this time last year, and guns were used to commit 78% of them, Chief Contee said.

“We need to send a message to anybody who would decide that they are going to go through the process of ordering this thing, taking the time to put it together, if they decide to take the time to do all those things, than as a city that we take the time to make that an enhanced penalty for anybody who would go as far as trying to put one of these ‘ghost guns’ together and use it in our community,” the police chief said.

Mr. Allen noted that, despite being invited several times, representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. attorney’s office; and the deputy mayor of public safety and justice did not attend the hearing, saying the hearing was only a “partial conversation” without their participation.

“It’s more than frustrating as a local official, I am held accountable by my constituents, but there is zero accountability when the U.S. attorney’s office, won’t do the council the courtesy of testifying before us,” Mr. Allen said.

Rebecca Davis of the D.C. Chapter of Moms Demand Action suggested that the city mimic its “all-hands-on-deck” approach for the Vision Zero plan to prevent transportation fatalities and injuries for gun violence prevention.

“Gun violence is highly concentrated in very small areas, some as tight as an intersection or a single half block,” Ms. Davis said, calling these areas “hot spots” and recommending better lighting, more trauma services and surveillance at those locations.

Nathan Luecking, a social worker at Anacostia High School, said a key element in reducing gun violence is “aggressively attacking poverty,” adding that students often get swept up into violence and crime due to a lack of opportunity and consistency of resources at school.

“It’s more honorable to take a bullet in the name of protecting a neighborhood,” which is the one consistent thing in many students’ lives, “than it is to get an award at school. It’s not a value judgment, it’s a reality,” Mr. Luecking said.

He said the D.C. Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement has deployed about four caseworkers to his school to help mentor students, which has helped curb truancy. Ten caseworkers could do even more good, he added.

The last day for public comment on the legislation is Oct. 17.

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