Youth Discuss Ways to Address Gun Violence
Chicago residents from different communities came together to discuss gun violence, understand how it impacts their communities, and become engaged in changing their neighborhood for the all-day event “Making Our World Safer: The Global Impact of Firearms on Local Communities” held on Friday, Sept 13 at the Chicago Scholar Foundation, a seven-year program that helps students to navigate through the complex transitions of high school, college and post-graduation life.
The event is funded by United Nations Office of Drug and Crime Education for Justice initiative. The initiative seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels. These activities help educators teach the next generation to better understand and address problems that can undermine the rule of law and encourage students to actively engage in their communities and future professions in this regard.
According to Jonathan McGee, founder of the Global Organization for Applied Political Leadership, the purpose of the event was to focus primarily on students of color living in Chicago, and their relationship to gun violence. McGee was hoping to explore the impacts of gun violence and how it impacts Chicagoans directly by facilitating group discussions, workshops and other activities.
“It's important that we understand what the actual facts are,” McGee said. “And what we do know is that we have more homicides in Chicago, than LA and New York combined, we know that 60% of firearms are from out of the state. And what we know is that majority of the victims of gun violence in crimes of firearms are people of color, and people from lower socioeconomic communities here in the city.”
McGee believes in order to decrease gun violence, people must understand why it’s occurring in their community to begin with. He said Chicagoans must have access to certain tools they need for this to happen. “They need access to information that is credible. They need the skills to build coalitions and organize communities to create issue campaigns and begin to hold elected officials accountable through the electoral process.”
The event had a workshop portion to educate people about firearms, as well as a panel discussion, and an open-group discussion.
Jim McGrath, an event attendee, also spoke at the event. He later highlighted how gun violence can impact anyone regardless of the area you live in or what your skin color is. “Gun violence affects us all no matter where we reside. But not everyone has the same experience. We aren't able to choose our parents so likewise, as children, we are not able to choose where we live.”
There was also a strong youth presence at event. Students from Innovations High School who attended spoke about their experiences with gun violence in their communities, gave their reasons on why it is so deeply rooted in their environment.
One student spoke about poverty during the Q&A session. According to the student, poverty is one of the reasons why so many deaths in Chicago are by guns. “We know that poverty is really the root reason why crimes are being committed. If your child is attending a school or they go into summer jobs, they will not have the time to go pick up a gun. A lot of people, young people out here, they don't have a job; they need the money. It's a matter of survival.”
After this student finished, other students were inspired to speak about their own experiences with gun violence and what they have to deal with on a daily basis. Another student shared “The gun situation, it's like people from where I am from, you can't really walk around like that cause people will probably try to rob you, they're gonna try to question you what type of gang you in. They’re gonna see where you from. Like, it's really intimidating if you're not from over there.”
McGee had his own ideas on what inspires this kind of violence. “People and desperation,” McGee said “When people have lost hope, morals and ethics get blurred. The music does not help either.” McGee went on to discuss his ideas on what needs to be done to address the issue. “We have to provide support and invest in our most vulnerable communities.”
Moving forward, McGee hopes that more events like this can help shape people into leaders. He said when the time comes for them to step up, they will be ready to deal with the issues head-on and encourage others to be apart of the movement to decrease gun violence in Chicago. McGee finished with a powerful quote to advocate people to strive towards creating a safer Chicago. “As Stephen Covey says, you have to seek first to understand then to be understood.”