‘It’s an epidemic’: Gun violence forum brings leaders together to find solutions

A panel of Lowcountry officials, politicians, and organization leaders gathered on Sunday evening at Burke High School.
Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 10:30 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2022 at 12:01 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A panel of Lowcountry officials, politicians, and organization leaders gathered on Sunday evening at Burke High School to discuss problems and solutions surrounding gun deaths.

Hosted by the Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council, Pastor Thomas Dixon started the event by stating that the panel members who are in attendance can actually impact our community over the upcoming years.

“We’re not here to point fingers unless we are pointing fingers at ourselves; because if each one of us has not done everything that we can do to prevent gun violence, we’re just as much a part of a problem as we are a part of the solution,” Dixon said.

Panel members include the following:

  • Rep. Krystle Matthews, - District 117 Running for U.S. Senate
  • Sydney Clinton - Running to Represent District 98
  • Tisa Whack - Gun Violence Survivor, MOMS Demand Action
  • Eric Watson – Charleston County Deputy Administrator
  • Scarlett Wilson – Ninth Circuit Solicitor
  • Chief Luther Reynolds - Charleston Police Department

Before the questioning portion of the forum, panel members first spoke about why the issue of gun violence is important to them personally.

“It’s an epidemic, that I know all of you are well aware of, that seeps into every single possible facet of our lives and we have to be able to recognize what we can do,” Clinton said. “I’m hoping that at the end of this, we’re able to feel a little bit better that we’re not alone in this fight because it can be very tiring, and it can be hard and overwhelming.”

‘Is this who we are or who we are becoming,’ was the first question posed to panel members on the topic of gun violence. The response from the speakers was mixed with a variety of different responses.

“I would say this is who we are becoming,” Reynolds said. “I believe that we are on a path on a continuum, and we’re not going in the right direction, we’re going in the wrong direction. I believe that if you look at the number of homicides, those numbers are very misleading and each one of them has a story and a name behind it and we need to put that story and that face on each one of those losses.”

Wilson responded by opposing Reynolds, saying the problem is not just one solution, it is many tiny victories along the way.

“It’s who we are. It’s not who we’re becoming, and we don’t have time to waste. We have to address these things now,” she said. “We have to address these things in a way that we can listen to each other across party lines, across law enforcement, prosecutors, and members of the community.”

The Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council put together a list of 12 possible solutions to curb gun violence in the Lowcountry:

  1. Implement a public campaign to lock cars to reduce gun theft.
  2. Create public, readable, accessible databases on gun crime.
  3. Fund Community Violence Interruption and Intervention with wrap-around services
  4. At-risk youth, identified by the community, schools and police, should be offered social resources and mentor services.
  5. Require all officers to attend and complete implicit bias training.
  6. Empower police chiefs to fire cops when they show racist beliefs and behavior
  7. Establish a statewide database for fired officers
  8. Charleston should recommit to holding the annual Police Community Unity Day held in the community
  9. Require all officers to attend and complete training on how to respond to victims during a domestic violence call that includes issues concerning the high risk of homicides because of domestic violence
  10. Conduct in-depth reviews into how law enforcement addresses cold case homicides and non-fatal assaults and how families are being kept up to date on their cases
  11. Build social capital, improving access to programs for high-risk youth, community greening/improvement of neighborhood physical space to reduce gun violence
  12. Emphasize community policing and create a strategic plan to implement it

“We have to learn as people how to resolve conflict, not just minors, but as adults, because you have to think about the way we react to things and how we’ve handled conflict,” Whack said. “We can’t handle conflict in a reasonable manner and how would we expect our children, our youth to follow our paths?”

The gun violence forum was just a start to discussing solutions, according to Marlvis Butch Kennedy, Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council Chair. In the upcoming year, the council has already begun taking steps to address gun violence in a collaborative approach among Lowcountry organizations.

Sunday’s gun violence forum was the first of several that the Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council is hosting.