This week, Senator Richard Blumenthal and students in Common Ground’s civics course met to discuss an issue close to our hearts: how to end gun violence in our communities.

Common Ground was forced to face violence head-on after the shooting of Senior Javier Martinez in late December. When Senator Blumenthal spoke about Javier on the Senate floor in January, students wrote him a letter thanking him for bringing the tragedy to the nation’s attention. “I feel like I am representing you,” explained Blumenthal when talking about his work in Washington. “And I want to make sure that students like yourselves aren’t exposed to gun violence, that it’s not an expected part of your lives.”

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Senator Richard Blumenthal addresses Common Ground’s civics class.

In mid-March, Senator Blumenthal visited Common Ground for a press conference — and began a discussion with Common Ground’s Advanced Placement Government students about lasting policy solutions to gun violence. A week later, the Senator returned to continue the difficult, important conversation.

During Senator Blumenthal’s visit, Teacher Brian Kelahan pointed out that Javier’s death is not the first or only time that many Common Ground students have had to face this trauma. “Many of our students have dealt with gun violence for much of their lives. For many students in this room it seems like the world is looking at them and saying your lives don’t matter.”

Students — among them Senior Harry Barbosa — shared their own efforts to build a culture of peace in New Haven. Barbosa and his classmates are planting community gardens in the neighborhood where Javier was killed, while other students are promoting urban street trees, sports programs, and early childhood education as important parts of the solution to gun violence.

Senator Blumenthal responded to Kelahan’s comments — and to students’ commitment — by vowing to return to support their efforts later this spring, and by inviting them visit Washington and testify about their experiences. “Personal stories and testimonies are often the most moving and incite the most immediate action,” said Blumenthal.

Read more about Senator Blumethal’s visit:

New Haven Independent: “Blumenthal Vows Sentencing Reform”

New Haven Register: “Blumenthal Meets With New Haven Students to Talk About Violence”

WSHU Public Radio: “Blumenthal Speaks to Classmates of New Haven Shooting Victim”