Young and his parishioners said anger management courses, job training and tougher penalties for illegal possession of guns would do more than banning assault weapons. "Two nines [9mm guns] can do just as much damage as an assault weapon," Young said.
In a survey of urban police officials, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler said, solutions for tamping down urban gun violence included tough prosecution of felons caught with guns, focusing on gang prevention and targeting known gun offenders with surveillance. Mentoring programs have also proven effective, he said.
"It was a horrible tragedy in Newtown, but if it has provided anything — it has provided an opportunity to take a big picture look at how gun violence affects cities across the country," he said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., a longtime advocate of tougher gun laws, is so hopeful about the possibility of tougher restrictions on guns that she took along with her to the State of the Union Nardyne Jefferies, whose 16-year-old daughter, Brishell, was killed with two other teens in a drive-by shooting on South Capitol Street in 2010.
"We will not turn around this time," Norton said. She sees a real chance for Congress to enact the universal background checks, which she said could cut down on the ability of criminals to buy guns and make resale more difficult.
On the streets of Capitol View, Williams, the young man whose 22-year-old brother was shot last year, said he wonders whether Congress is dealing with the wrong issue. Can a law keep a gun off the streets? Would a background check have saved his brother from a bullet?
His brother was caught up with a "bad crowd, " said Williams, who added that he leads a comparatively quiet life. He isn't sure whether tougher gun laws would have saved his sibling — or, for that matter, that they can protect him.
"Jobs, that's what we need," Williams said.