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Gun violence is devastating Hartford's community, activist says

Rec. Henry Brown of Mothers United Against Violence spoke in April, 2022, at a vigil on Huntington Street in Hartford where 12-year-old SéCret Pierce was killed in a drive-by shooting.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
The Rev. Henry Brown, of Mothers United Against Violence, spoke in April of 2023, at a vigil on Huntington Street in Hartford where 12-year-old SéCret Pierce was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Eight shooting deaths in just over a weeklong span has Hartford anti-gun violence activist the Rev. Henry Brown very worried about his community.

“It's really devastating our community,” Brown, a co-founder of Mothers United Against Gun Violence, said. “Folks can't walk through the stores anymore. Families are afraid to let their children go outside and play because there's no telling when a gun might go off.”

There were 39 homicides in thecity of Hartford last year, according to police statistics. That was the most in two decades. The recent surge in gun violence has put the city on pace to exceed that total in 2023. For the better part of two decades, Mothers United Against Gun Violence has been both sounding the alarm about gun violence in Connecticut cities and trying to take steps to quell that violence.

“We're trying to raise that awareness, with the vigils, the rallies, the marches,” Brown said. “We don't get to the point where we say ‘we give up.’ We can't do that because there’s too much at stake.”

On the question of what needs to be done to make a real dent in Hartford’s gun violence problem, the Rev. Brown has a list of things he thinks would be helpful:

Erase poverty

Hartford has one of the two highest poverty rates in the state, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data. Numerous studies have found violent crime correlates with high levels of poverty.

“I think the number one thing that should be done: deal with the poverty or quality of life,” Brown said.

Revive summer youth activities

“Particularly in the summertime when school is out, kids need things to do.” Brown said. “There used to be a time in Hartford where you had all kinds of recreation centers. They don't have these things now and it's making it tougher for the kids to have activities.”

Offer access to mental health treatment  

A generation in Hartford has grown up with untreated trauma from the violence they see regularly, Brown said.

“They’ve seen a lot of blood spilled on the streets,” Brown said. “But that was no counseling for these young people. So now these young people that were five and eight, now they're 20-something and they ... look, they’ve seen blood. They’ve seen the yellow tape. They’re numb to it.”

See something, say something 

“If you know, someone has the potential to use a gun,” Brown said, “tell somebody that that person had that gun, particularly when that person don't have a right to have that gun.”

More bipartisan cooperation from political leaders would help, Brown said. He took issue with Connecticut House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora’s recents comments that “the only people ambivalent to what's transpiring every day are Democrats and the legislature who refused to consider the notion that maybe, just maybe, their ‘smart on crime’ approach, is not working.”

“Leaders should be on par with one another; there's too much division,” Brown said. “Guns are prevalent on our streets. People are using guns now more so than ever before, and we can't seem to get together on the same page. We have to send a strong message to the people that don't deserve guns, shouldn't have guns.”

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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