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'Public Health Crisis': How Gun Violence Affects Youth In Denver

DENVER (CBS4)- A new report showing how gun violence affects the youth in Denver shows some surprising results. Some are even going so far as to call it a public health crisis.

Wednesday afternoon a teenager was shot near Monaco Parkway and Mexico Avenue in Denver. The victim, a 14-year-old freshman at George Washington High School, did not survive.

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A teenager was shot and killed Wednesday, near South Monaco Parkway and Mexico Avenue. (credit: CBS)

This is just the most recent violent crime targeting teens in the Denver metro area this summer.

Another teen killed by gun violence was Autumn Lawrence's son Aiden.

aiden lawrence
Aiden Lawrence (credit: Denver Police)

"We're becoming desensitized to this," she told CBS4's Michael Abeyta.

She was attending a community meeting in Montbello, speaking out for her son who was shot and killed Aug. 9 in Stapleton.

"I need to get his voice out here," she said.

Autumn Lawrence (credit: CBS)

While the names and faces of the victims of gun violence may fade from the headlines, the pain doesn't for mothers like Autumn. She knows soon another family will have to feel the same pain she has and that makes her emotional all over again.

"This is not just another kid that was shot. This is much more than that," said Autumn. "These communities are being ravaged by violence."

Maritza Valenzuela (credit: CBS)

Maritza Valenzuela, the Youth Health Manager at Denver Public Health, published a study examining how Denver youth are affected by gun violence.

"This is a significant ongoing problem in Denver. About 13 young people in Denver are killed each year by gunfire. Almost 70 are injured badly enough to be hospitalized or go to emergency rooms and almost 600 are victims of crimes involving guns."

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(credit: iStock/Getty Images)

The victims of gun violence are largely Black and Hispanic and from economically depressed neighborhoods.

"We look at it as a public health crisis," said Maritza.

She notes that youth gun violence can have a rippling effect on an entire community.

Mike Cortes (credit: CBS)

Mike Cortes, the Executive Director of CLLARO, a Latinx empowerment and advocacy organization, said that without opportunities for better health and education, many Latinx youths may be tempted to become part of a world of violence and guns.

"Gun violence is not only an important problem, it's a symptom of a larger societal problem," said Cortes.

Aside from limiting access guns he says the biggest thing we can do as a society is to give young people in all neighborhoods and from all ethnicities the opportunities afforded to the most privileged.

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A teenager was shot and killed Wednesday, near South Monaco Parkway and Mexico Avenue. (credit: CBS)

When it comes to teaching kids, especially from traditionally disenfranchised groups like Black, Hispanic or economically disadvantaged kids, Cortes said, "Encourage them to think about good careers for themselves. Good performance in school. Give them hope."

Which is something Autumn Lawrence was doing with her son Aiden. Now even though he is gone, she said she still wants to give a helping hands to kids headed down the wrong path.

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(credit: CBS)

"I'm going to continue that work and I'm not going to let his death be in vain."

According to that Denver Public Health study cities like Oakland and Louisville Kentucky have tried holistic approaches to reducing crime which includes not only law enforcement but also community building and providing resources to underserved communities and have seen dramatic decreases in gun violence.

LINK: Denver Public Health Youth Gun Violence Report

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