Jul 20, 2022 - News

Solutions for stemming gun violence

Men graduating

RóDerick Zavala and Howard Keller at their June graduation. Photos courtesy of Karl Clifton Soderstrom, Phillip Dembinski and North Park University

We recently reported on North Park University's inaugural master's degree graduates in Christian Ministry and Restorative Arts, all of whom are incarcerated at the Stateville Correctional Center.

Why it matters: As people who committed crimes decades ago and now focus on solutions, they offer a unique perspective on our city's biggest issues.

  • So we asked a few graduates: If you were the mayor or governor, how would you reduce gun violence?

The big picture: "Gun violence shatters the family dynamic, the environment and the social support system, leaving the seeds for the next crime," recent graduate RóDerick Zavala tells Axios. "And so if you want to start preventing it, you need to deal with all those people left behind."

What's more: "When I've seen a friend shot or been the victim of gun violence, there were people in that area blocked off by the yellow tape who had to bear witness to that incident and experienced vicarious trauma," fellow recent graduate Howard Keller says. "And they need help."

  • "Our city has invested a lot in first responders like police and EMTs, but I think it's time for them to invest in second responders geared towards the people who survive and live in the wake of a traumatic experience."

The bottom line: "Every Monday when I turn my television on, they tell me exactly how many people got shot. But who's counting how many people are left to deal with losing a loved one or with a son who is now paralyzed, or daughter who has just experienced a horrific sexual assault?" Keller asks.

  • "In those people … is the next shooting, the next traumatic response. So I would like to see a more deliberate response to those individuals and for it to be normalized."

What's happening: Illinois directed part of a $250 million pandemic relief package to organizations that work with families and other survivors of gun violence, WBEZ reported.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more