Recent gun violence involving kids as young as 14 in Montgomery County, Maryland, is raising questions about the most effective way to combat such crime.
County Council President Gabe Albornoz told reporters in a briefing Monday that while the state has enacted “some of the strictest firearms regulations across this country,” he added: “The sad reality is that too many of these weapons are in our community. Too many of them are easily accessible, and we are well beyond a tipping point, quite frankly.”
A “perfect negative storm” is contributing to a surge in violent crime, Albornoz said: Students cut off from social interaction at school and in their communities due to the pandemic had much more time on their own and were often exposed to violent, “toxic” content on the internet. “That, coupled with the stress and anxiety that we all felt,” helped steer young people towards violence.
The school system, police and county agencies are working to deal with the issue, said Albornoz. The county-run Street Outreach program — which is aimed at preventing kids from joining gangs — “is literally working overtime,” he said.
But as the council continues its work on the budget, Albornoz said, an emphasis should be placed on finding money to aid initiatives such as the one to add wellness centers to every high school in the county.
Albornoz noted that that the recent violence is happening during the school year.
“The summer months is typically when we see the largest spikes in this type of behavior, and we haven’t even gotten there yet,” he added.
Concern about teenagers as both victims of and suspects in violent crimes has grown since a 15-year-old was shot and seriously wounded inside Magruder High School in January.
Since then, there have been a string of shootings — some fatal — involving suspects as young as 14. Three juvenile suspects have been arrested in the murder of a 20-year-old from Frederick earlier this month. Those suspects are ages 14, 15 and 16.
“These kids are screaming for help,” Albornoz said, and getting assistance to them “has to be a priority.”
Hours after Albornoz spoke, a suspect in the death of 17-year-old Jailyn Lawrence Jones, a senior at Northwest High School, made a court appearance in Rockville. Jones’ body was discovered in a wooded area in Germantown Jan. 24.
The suspect in Jones’ death is also 17 years old.