Tri-County leaders talk solutions to combat Lowcountry gun violence

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - It was the who's who of the Tri-County area all gathered in North Charleston City Hall.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, along with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley were joined by community leaders and law enforcement in search of a solution to this year's gun violence.

In North Charleston alone, the city is on track to double its numbers from 2013.  So far, the city is reporting 37 shooting victims, with 11 homicides.  That's compared to 10 homicides in 2013, with 21 shooting victims.

During the meeting, Mayor Summey presented statistics, indicating that of the 37 victims, 35 were men and women within the black community.  Summey said among the three main causes were drugs and money, reputation, and personal relationships.

"We've got to get in control of the guns on the street, because it's jeopardizing every person that's put there," he said.

Among the solutions, community activist and Pastor Thomas Dixon, called for stiffer penalties for anyone in possession of an illegal gun.  Dixon referenced Project Exile as a model, a program that started in Richmond, Virginia, and shifts the prosecution of illegal gun possession to federal court.  Under the program, the minimum sentence carries five years in federal prison.

"As a concerned citizen and a community activist and organizer, the people I talk to don't want to hear leniency, they want to hear swift retribution," he said.

Elder James Johnson, also of the National Action Network, helped organized Tuesday's meeting. The community activist is not immune to recent gun violence, losing his grandson, 19-year-old Terrence McNeil on July 4th.

McNeil was shot in his car near the intersection of East Recess Road and Old Point Road in Hanahan. Moments later, the car crashed into a house on East Recess.  According to the coroner’s office, the 19-year-old died from gunshot wounds to the head.

"If we don't do something about the murdering and the killings in these counties, it's not going to stop," Johnson said.

Tuesday's meeting with Tri-County leaders was phase one of a 3-phase outreach.  Johnson said the National Action Network is working to organize community pastors, and will later reach out to the business community.

"We can't ask these people to come out of the street unless they have some hope."

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