Final Tri-County Gun Violence Forum focuses on finding common ground, solutions

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 12:41 AM EDT|Updated: May. 8, 2023 at 12:42 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After multiple gun violence forums called upon people from all backgrounds to share their input, the final meeting brought together solutions.

The Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council hosted its fourth gun violence forum on Sunday evening, focusing on finding common ground and implementing solutions.

The first gun violence forum hosted by the council was hosted back in November, with the following meetings having different issues as the center point of conversation.

Choosing people with different backgrounds, panel members included the following:

  • Dr. Ashley Hink, MUSC Department of Surgery, Trauma Department
  • Elmire Raven, former executive director My Sister’s House
  • Meghan Trezies, founder of Arm in Arm
  • Joy Brown, education advocate
  • Wendell Manigault Jr., gun violence survivor
  • Ronald Smith, community advocate
  • Keith Smalls, community advocate
  • Anjene (AJ) Davis, public education community advocate
  • RezSaun Lewis, executive director Low County Services
  • Krystle Mathews, Former S.C. State Rep.117th district
  • Tisa Whack, gun violence survivor, MOMS Demand Action
  • James Moore, Veteran, gun owner

Law enforcement officials with North Charleston, Summerville and Dorchester County also attended to speak about specific numbers their departments have seen relating to guns seen in their communities.

North Charleston Police Department Deputy Chief Ken Hagge says their patrol is seizing anywhere from 28 to 50 guns a month off the street. He also adds that their evidence locker has about 7,500 guns in the department’s possession.

“We have more guns being purchased by legal gun owners that sell them to gangs than we ever had before,” Hagge says.

Summerville Police Chief Doug Wright says last year 396 guns were taken with proactive policing in the town.

“In my 30 years, I’ve never seen people leave their vehicles unlocked with firearms inside so often,” Wright says.

The coordinating council has put together a list of recommended solutions, including implementing a public campaign to lock cars to reduce gun theft, creating public, readable, accessible databases on crime and requiring officers in the area complete implicit bias training.

“I want to know where my patients come from, because it matters, and a lot of them tend to come from the same neighborhoods in the same communities,” Hink says. “That means we have to ask ourselves, what is going on in the neighborhoods and communities is putting them at risk, so that we can actually do something to fix it.”

“I remember someone saying during an active shooter drill, ‘Our kids are too young for this, they really shouldn’t have to see this, they are too innocent,’” Brown says. “But the reality is, that is real life for way too many of our kids; gun violence in their home, in their backyards. We are doing a disservice to them to bury our heads in the sand and not address these issues.”

“Charleston has never had this type of community come together to help their own communities for something like this before,” Smalls says. “We have to take matters into our own hands.”

Additional solutions that the council suggests are listed below:

  • Fund community violence interruption and intervention with wrap-around services
  • At-risk youth, identified by the community, schools and police, should be offered social resources and mentor services
  • Empower police chiefs to fire cops when they show racist beliefs and behavior
  • Establish a statewide database for fired officers
  • Charleston should recommit to holding the annual Police Community Unity Day held in the community
  • Require all officers to attend and complete training on how to respond to victims during a domestic violence call which also includes issues concerning the high risk of homicides due to domestic violence
  • Conduct in-depth review into how law enforcement addresses cold case homicides and non-fatal assaults and how families are being kept up to date on their cases
  • Build social capital, improving access to programs for high-risk youth, community greening/improvement of neighborhood physical space to reduce gun violence