Causes, solutions to gun violence discussed

Published 12:36 pm Sunday, October 28, 2018

Better education, communication and increased parental and community involvement in the lives of youth are the keys to helping reduce urban violence, a panel of public officials and community leaders said Saturday night at a forum on violence in the community.

They also believe the community is properly situated to address the issues contributing to urban violence.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Rev. Mitchell Dent, Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Sheriff Martin Pace, youth counselor Pamela Pruitt, District Attorney Ricky Smith and Vicksburg Warren School District Trustee Alonzo Stevens discussed issues affecting youth violence in the community and took questions from the more than 50 people attending the forum at King Solomon Baptist Church.

The forum, titled “Saving Our Youth,” was part of the church’s annual Family Empowerment Weekend.

King Solomon pastor the Rev. R.D. Bernard said the forum was part of the church’s responsibility to the community to make it aware “of the sicknesses that tear at the fabric of our collective wellbeing.

My prayer is that we’ll all be strengthened and encouraged by our collective discussion.”

The panelists listed several contributing factors to gun violence, citing a child’s environment and easy access to weapons.

Pace said children are exposed early to violence through video games, movies and media.

“From birth, they are bombarded with violent videos, with violent social media, and even what’s in the movie theaters,” he said.

“I believe it’s desensitizing an entire generation of children to violence. That, coupled with a lack of parental guidance; there’s no guidance about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.”

Because of the exposure to violence, he said, young people are more prone to resort to violent behavior to resolve conflicts rather than trying to find a reasonable solution.

It starts with education

“The primary problem is a lack of education,” Smith said. “Especially at the root of the violence issue. We need to make sure our youth have access to education; access to adequate education. That they get the education they need. We need to stop making kids and start raising kids. We need more father figures to get involved with their children at an early age.”

With education, he said, comes opportunity.

“Without education there’s no opportunity; there’s despair. There’s no caring for tomorrow if you don’t have a future. When someone pulls that trigger, he’s not thinking ahead.”

Pruitt, a counselor and mental health therapist at Christian Acres Youth Center in Tallulah, Louisiana, said schools need help in identifying children who may have behavioral issues and work with them in an effort to improve the learning atmosphere in the schools.

“This is something the school system has to do,” she said. “Teachers are not equipped to handle those problems.”

Stevens said there needs to be a strong connection between parents and children, adding some parents try more to be a friend to their children than a parent, and they need to be there for children.

“You’ve got to be a parent to your kids,” he said.

Be involved with youth

Everyone, Pace said, has a responsibility toward a child to put them on a positive track.

“There are always more people than the parents who are involved in a child’s life,” he said. “And I believe we have a responsibility if we recognize that a child is in a difficult situation, whether you’re a teacher or a friend.

“I think it’s somebody’s responsibility to step up to the plate and talk with that child and explain that this is not the path that’s going to lead you to a good result; every action is going to have a consequence for good or bad.”

Flaggs said parents and leaders need to set examples for young people.

“Children want to emulate their parents. Parents need to practice what they preach,” he said. “Don’t tell your kids not to smoke and have ashtrays all over the house. Don’t tell them not to drink alcohol and then have alcohol in the refrigerator.

“All pastors, public officials, anyone in a leadership role needs to lead by example,” Flaggs said.

“What hurts us sometimes is we concentrate on our diversity instead of what we have in common,” Dent said. “If we focus on our commonality, then we can change a lot of things.”

Pace agreed.

“Get to know your neighbor, get to know the people in the community,” he said. “We have so much more in common than we have different, but we need to know each other. We can know where the problems are and take an active role in trying to solve those problems.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John