Dec 20, 2022 - News

Atlanta leaders propose curfew, lock boxes to curb gun violence

Illustration of gun barrels getting longer forming an upward trending bar chart.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two more children were shot and killed over the weekend, and Atlanta leaders are exploring ways to stem the tide of gun violence plaguing young people.

Why it matters: Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States.

  • Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement that "these last few weeks have shown all too clearly that Atlanta is not immune" from that statistic.
  • "It takes every single one of us to counter this plague in our community," he said.

The latest: Two teenage boys, 14 and 16, were killed and three other juveniles were injured in a shooting in southwest Atlanta on Saturday. It stemmed from a social media dispute, Atlanta police deputy chief Charles Hampton Jr. said in a briefing.

  • "This should be a time that we're getting ready for the holidays, but we have at least two families that'll be planning for funerals," Hampton said.

Two City Council members have introduced measures that could be a starting point in addressing the issue. Keisha Sean Waites' legislation would impose a mandatory curfew starting at 8pm weekdays and 9pm weekends for anyone 16 and younger.

  • Antonio Lewis introduced legislation calling on APD and the mayor's Office of Violence Reduction to give residents free lock boxes so they can secure their guns.

The intrigue: During last week's Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee meeting, Council member Marci Collier Overstreet wondered if the city should reinstate something similar to its Red Dog unit.

  • The infamous squad was disbanded in 2011 after Atlanta shelled out $1 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the 2009 raid on Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar in Midtown.

Reality check: While some are discussing if heavy-handed tactics are needed, advocates who work in this field argue that a more holistic approach should be the city’s priority.

Atlanta should treat youth violence as a public health issue, said retired detention officer Bruce Griggs, the founder of Operation Correct Start, which helps keep youth off the street and in school.

  • "We've lost a generation, not only here in Atlanta, but throughout the nation," he said.
  • Any outreach should begin when kids are in elementary school because peer pressure and social media become too powerful to resist, Griggs told Axios.

The big picture: Derrick Townsend, the program manager for Zone 3 at CHRIS 180, told Axios a lot of youth in his program are forced into adult situations and have to help pay bills in the household.

  • Townsend said that poverty, a lack of opportunities, stress and historic trauma in communities, all play a part in the violence Atlantans are seeing.
  • "Some of them are committing crimes just to eat and I know that firsthand,” Townsend said. "It's not an excuse, but it is an opportunity for us to begin to see how we can create opportunities for these youth to work."

What we're watching: Waites and Lewis' legislation will be considered at the Jan. 3 City Council meeting, Council president Doug Shipman told Axios.


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