DENVER (CBS4)– All solutions are being considered as Denver deals with a wave of gun violence. Many of those cases involve teenagers.
As that youth gun violence rises, community advocates like Jonathan McMillan are constantly working to find a solution.
“We are at a crisis level now,” he said. “There’s no magic pill, no magic wand that will fix it.”
However, he sees hope on the horizon with an idea from Denver’s District Attorney’s Office.
“The thing I’m really excited about is, from my understanding, they’re going to be very intentional about bringing in community,” McMillan said.
The plan was to create a handgun intervention program, or a “gun court.” It is modeled much like other specialized courts for issues like substance abuse. The idea is to prevent young people charged with gun possession from escalating to more serious crimes and empower them to make better life choices, a spokesperson for the Denver DA’s Office explained.
“At the heart of this program is the Community Accountability Board,” spokesperson Carolyn Tyler told CBS4 in an email. “Youth offenders will be held accountable by and derive guidance from members of this board.”
“I think anything we can do on the front end to hopefully deter a young person from going further down into the criminal justice rabbit hole is necessary,” McMillan told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Denver’s proposed gun court is based on a similar program in Mobile, Ala. It takes a more empathetic approach to punishment, including family interventions, gun education, counseling and connections to community resources.
“It sounds like a lot of the right pieces are in there,” McMillan said, noting he attended Denver’s Safety Committee meeting Wednesday where this idea was presented. “I would just love to make sure that there’s oversight to make sure the fidelity of the community piece remains intact.”
Some argue the gun court idea doesn’t tackle the violence issue head-on, but McMillan believes it’s a step in the right directions.
“Young people need to understand the impact of what their actions are,” he said. “Unfortunately, right now the criminal justice system may not necessarily be the best mechanism overall, but the best that we have. Programs like this gun court are an improvement upon that system, especially when they have a community voice.”
At this point, there is no date for when the gun court would go into effect or if it ever will.