Two recent incidents involving gun possession on or near school property have fueled an ongoing debate in New Haven over how to curb gun violence, especially around children.
On Jan. 13, a 14-year-old boy was shot twice outside Hillhouse High School after a sporting event. Just two days later, a former student at New Horizons High School was discovered by security guards to be in possession of a revolver on his way to visit the school principal’s office. Though neither event proved fatal and no evidence could be found linking the former New Horizons student to planned violence, both raised questions about mechanisms existing in the city to prevent gun violence on or near school grounds.
“With two gun incidents in the past week, we are reminded of the need for urgency in coming together as a school district and a community to engage our youth and keep them firmly on the path toward graduation and college success and away from gun violence,” New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 said in a press conference last week.
David Hartman, spokesman for the New Haven Police Department, said it is important to regard these two incidents as examples of street violence invading schools, rather than school-specific acts of violence.
This past April, the State Legislature passed a comprehensive package of gun restrictions to tighten access to weapons and ammunition. Though the package was passed largely in response to the Newtown school shootings, lawmakers from urban areas included several provisions — such as one requiring those convicted of gun violence on parole to regularly check in with police — specifically targeted at urban street violence. The bill also included enhanced provisions for school safety with terms of eligibility for schools to apply for additional grants.
According to Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, the proposal within the bill that requires those convicted of violent gun crimes to check in regularly with the police was drafted with New Haven specifically in mind.
“We’re confident that this sort of follow-up and law enforcement by the police will fight gun violence,” Looney said. “These issues tend to have their roots in gang violence or poverty, and sometimes they can come through the doors of schools.”
City Hall Spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the mayor’s office is also working very closely with the NHPD to reduce acts of gun violence.
“The mayor has a great deal of confidence in the community policing efforts of the department,” Grotheer said. “But she feels that there are too many guns on New Haven streets and will continue to work to reduce that number.”
Police arrested a student in response to the Hillhouse shooting on Jan 16. The suspect is not part of the Hillhouse student body.