NCLR Commends President’s Approach to Preventing Gun Violence

NCLR (National Council of La Raza) praised President Obama’s announcement of a comprehensive proposal, including 23 executive measures, aimed at curbing gun violence in the wake of the tragedy inNewtown,Conn.  The President requested that Congress immediately advance a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as establish universal background checks on gun buyers.  He also addressed the broader issue of community violence by proposing at least $150 million for future school safety initiatives and announcing a partnership between the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education to address a wide spectrum of mental health issues related to gun violence.

“We praise the President’s swift, thoughtful action as well as his challenge to Congress to enact new measures and broaden this long-overdue national conversation,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.  “There are many promising first steps in his announcement, including measures aimed at getting guns out of the hands of the wrong individuals.  In addition, we praise his approach that looks more broadly at how gun violence impacts communities of color, including the Latino community.”

Gun violence toward youth has reached an alarming rate.  In theUnited States, a child or teen is killed by a firearm every three hours, and every 14 hours one of those youth is Latino.  In states such asCalifornia, the majority of youth homicides involve the use of a handgun.  NCLR Affiliates and other community-based organizations have long worked to prevent and reduce violence, yet the resources invested in these programs and policies that make an impact have not matched the need.

NCLR is a pleased with the administration’s responsiveness to the civil rights community’s concerns with proposals to place armed guards in schools.  Children of color disproportionately attend punitive schools where overpolicing can lead to distrust of law enforcement.  The new flexibility in the president’s proposal allows school districts to employ resources, including social and mental health services, to address the behavioral health of children and work with them to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.  According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, from 2009 to 2012 states cut an estimated $4.35 billion in public mental health spending.  Many insurance plans do not provide appropriate coverage for these services, and families of children with mental health issues often have no access to professional support.

“We are hopeful that local, state and federal lawmakers will work with the White House on policies that do not just address the accessibility of guns but also ensure that we are providing the kind of support, guidance, counseling and mental health services that can help children—especially youth routinely exposed to violence—learn to cope with issues without resorting to violence,” continued Murguía.  “We look forward to working with the administration over the coming year to ensure that school and community safety measures are comprehensive and responsive to the needs of Latino youth and all ofAmerica’s children.”

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