S.A.V.E Our Children from Gun Violence

By Assembly Member Khaleel M. Anderson, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence | March 22, 2024

As New Yorkers, we need to face the facts: gun violence is now the number one cause of death for our children. In my time serving the community and now as an Assembly Member, so many of our young people have been shot and killed. In 2012, we marched through the streets of Far Rockaway calling for justice for Neshawn Plummer after he was gunned down. Then three short years later Neshawn’s brother was shot down in the very same neighborhood. After Justin Wallace, an 11-year-old boy was killed due to a petty parking dispute between neighbors, my office founded the Edgemere Violence Community Mediation Program in partnership with Community Mediation Services. It was a necessary start, but our children need and deserve so much more support. 

It’s time for New York State to make a substantial investment in school anti-violence programs to save our youth and to prevent the trauma and devastation that mothers, fathers, aunties and others experience when they learn their child is not coming home. That’s why I’m partnering with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and State Senator Jamaal Bailey to champion new legislation: The School Anti-Violence Education Act, “SAVE”.  We need to meet our children where they spend most of their time: at school. We know that trauma-informed school anti-violence programs provide mental health support and stronger connections to peers and teachers. These programs change young people’s attitudes and perceptions towards carrying guns and significantly increase the chances that youth will turn to a trusted adult for power and protection rather than a gun. 

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Education Fund’s anti-violence education program, “ReACTION”, has been successfully implemented in over 20 schools in communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence in New York City. Before the program, only about 53% of the participating youth understood that guns will not provide them with protection. After participation in the “ReACTION” program, the vast majority (88%) said they would not turn to carrying a gun for self-defense. This is a life-saving result, but we’re only reaching a small fraction of the young people who need us to fight for them. With more state funding, programs comparable to ReACTION would be helping to change the perspectives and practices of our children across the state.

The “School Anti-Violence Education Act” would ensure that schools and nonprofits have sufficient resources to implement programs during the school day and after-school to provide conflict-resolution strategies and mental health resources, and to empower our youth to advocate for peaceful alternatives and solutions to end gun violence. SAVE would be administered by the New York State Department of Education and would demonstrate our education system’s commitment to providing resources and support to schools in communities disproportionately affected by gun violence. By investing in prevention and intervention initiatives in schools most impacted, we can address the root causes of violence and create opportunities for healing and reconciliation inside our classrooms.

Along with programs like SAVE, the State must do more to keep young people engaged in safe and supportive spaces beyond typical school hours. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than a third of violent crime involving youth occurs during the hours immediately after school ends. We are proudly supporting universal after school programming with the lead of Senator Zellnor Myrie and others because we believe that after school programs can keep our children and communities safer right now. 

The School Anti-Violence Education Act is more than just legislation.  It is a collective commitment to the safety and well-being of our young people who are growing up during increasingly dark and violent times. As a State Legislator, it is my duty and responsibility to carry the struggles of my community with me to Albany and fight like hell for their needs. If we pass SAVE, we will be empowering our students and families with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate and confront the realities they face and the powerlessness they too often feel, before picking up a gun or becoming the next senseless shooter or victim. If we invest in our youth, they will grow up to be the leaders we so urgently need, safeguarding our communities, and building a brighter, safer future for all.

Khaleel M. Anderson serves as the New York State Assembly Member representing District 31 in Queens.

For more information on New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, please visit https://nyagv.org.