Rep. Sara Jacobs on Tuesday sat down with community members in San Diego who spoke about gun violence, many of whom said shooting victims and their communities need greater access to services like mental health treatment to break the cycle of violence.
Jacobs, a Democrat from San Diego, convened a panel that included a San Diego police officer and several community members who work to prevent and disrupt gun violence. They were joined by Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, at Hoover High School in City Heights for the broad discussion on gun violence.
Several of the community members called attention to the proliferation of guns, which they said drives shootings. They also noted that gun violence is a result of root causes, including poverty and income inequality.
Pastor Jesus Sandoval, a former gang member, recalled being shot as a teenager and joining a gang “for protection.”
He said more gang members have guns today, because of a greater access to firearms.
He and others spoke of the need to support survivors of gun violence, as well as their family and friends, in the aftermath of shootings to help them rebuild their lives.
“We have to look farther out of the shock waves,” said Max Coston of San Diego March for Our Lives. “An act of gun violence doesn’t just affect the person the gun was pointed at.”
Coston said that after mass shootings at schools, mental health workers flood the campuses to offer support. “But then someone gets shot on the street, you see the police show up. (Victims’) friends don’t get that mental health support,” he said.
Therese Hymer of San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention said that while San Diego is one of the safest large cities in the US, “we know there are neighborhoods that are very not safe, and so the resources have to be poured there.”
Bishop Cornelius Bowser said collaboration and partnerships among service providers are important. He said federal health-care-related laws sometimes prevent community members who work to disrupt gang violence from meeting with victims of shootings at hospitals.
“We have to partner in that area,” Bowser said.
April Laster of Open Heart Leaders highlighted another problem. She said some mental health service providers don’t work with certain insurance providers.
On the topic of mental health, Hoover High senior Kimberly De Alba said some students don’t feel comfortable seeking services, like counseling, outside of school. She suggested on-campus services, which she said would make help accessible to students.
Several community members called for funding — and information about available funds — to reach the organizations on the ground.
San Diego Police Officer Terry Hoskins echoed the calls for services and funding. He said he often encounters people who were formerly incarcerated and lack a support system — which he said he believes increases the chances they’ll end up incarcerated once again.
“They need a support system,” he said, “and it needs to be funded.”
Jacobs said she believes it is important to address the proliferation of guns as well as the root causes of gun violence.
“We have to address the issue from both sides,” she said. “It’s not one or the other.”