In 2020, shootings in New York City were up more than eighty per cent. Working with high-school students, Shaina Harrison is on a mission to stem the carnage.

by Ian Frazier

March 29, 2021

… N.Y.A.G.V. has successfully lobbied the state legislature to pass major gun-safety measures. A law now requires that all guns in homes with children be under lock and key, thanks partly to the group. The ReACTION curriculum, developed by Harrison and scaled up by Fischer, is taught in nineteen schools and serves more than five hundred students. Fischer sees her job as bringing forward the young activists—Harrison and N.Y.A.G.V.’s other teachers—while she supervises, lobbies, and raises money.

… In 1990 and 1991, nearly two thousand people were killed by gunfire in New York each year. Observers disagreed about why the numbers went down, to two hundred and ninety-seven, in 2016, but studies have shown that the more nonprofit organizations a neighborhood has, the fewer the shootings. Conservative critics blame the recent gun-violence surge on bail reform, decriminalization of minor offenses, and cuts in the police department’s budget. Replacement numbers of police officers have not kept up with retirements; fewer cops are on the streets. Dobbins thinks that shootings are up because everybody is at home and arguments start on the Internet. “Then, when people see each other on the street, the guns come out,” he said.

Dr. Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, dismisses explanations based on bail reform and the rest as “self-serving law-enforcement theories.” He told me, “Young men of color in the ages between fifteen and twenty-five, the group most affected by gun violence, are also very likely to have the kind of jobs that disappeared in the pandemic.” Summer-job programs were cancelled, too. “And, of course, the schools have been closed for a year,” he went on. “These young men are angry; they go out on the streets, where there now are fewer people, and they take the opportunity to go after their rivals.”

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