NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s two U.S. senators heard emotional accounts of the toll of urban gun violence as they held a forum Friday in New Haven to hear from activists, police and others about how to address the problem.
Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal heard calls for more outreach workers, mediators, community centers, and help for former prisoners so they don’t return to crime.
Gun violence has been a long-running problem in Connecticut’s cities. New Haven had 20 killings last year, while Bridgeport had 13 and Hartford had 24, police said.
Devonne Canady said the boxing gym she opened in New Haven in 2012 quickly became crowded. Some youths are angry and dying to gun violence, she said. Tears ran down her cheeks as she described struggling to help young people.
‘‘I think one of the biggest issues is we don’t have a lot for kids to do in this community,’’ Canady said. ‘‘They need a lot more than this little boxing gym around the corner. And I can’t help them alone.’’
Douglas Bethea, a meeting organizer, said his son was killed in 2006.
‘‘This is dear to me,’’ Bethea said, adding later that ‘‘it’s time that we really get something in place and do something.’’
Robert Page, executive director of a mental health services agency in New Haven, said his father was fatally shot when Page was 18 months old. He recalled pastors and other mentors who helped him as he called for youth clubs and community centers.
‘‘My pathway to recovery was through relationships,’’ Page said.
Murphy spoke of treating gun violence like a public health problem, saying the approach could free up public health funding to help youths traumatized by violence. He also said additional funding was approved for school security and enforcing criminal background checks and promised to seek resources for projects such as after-school centers.
Murphy said youths need a sense of hope about the future so they’re not quick to pick up a gun in a dispute.
‘‘There’s no one solution,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘This is not just about tough gun laws.’’
Efforts to pass gun control failed in Congress after the Newtown school massacre in which 20 children and six educators were killed.
Blumenthal vowed to keep fighting for gun control. The Senate rejected expanded background checks for gun buyers and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he won’t revisit the bill until he has the 60 votes he would need to prevail.
‘‘We’re not giving up,’’ Blumenthal said. ‘‘We’re not going away. The Connecticut effect will be enduring.’’
Gun control measures have passed in some states, including Connecticut. The Obama administration last month announced a pair of executive actions aimed at strengthening federal background checks for gun purchasers, with a particular focus on limiting firearm access for those with mental health issues.