SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse residents and activists came together to discuss gun violence at a town hall Oct. 10.
Between 2014 and 2016, the United States saw a spike in homicide rates due almost entirely to gun homicides, according to the Center for Diseases and Control (CDC). In 2016, gun homicides accounted for the largest share in over 80 years, according to the federal record.
“I just really wish they’d just put the guns down,” said Worletta Clemons, secretary of the Mary Nelson Youth Center in Syracuse. “They’re hurting so many lives.”
At the White Branch Library on Butternut Street, many of the residents themselves have been permanently impacted personal experiences with gun-related incidents.
In 2006, Clemons became a permanent member of the gun violence community. Her son, Jemar Shepherd Green, was shot to death after he was robbed during a drug transaction. He was 28 years old and left seven children behind.
Jenna Swetland, a member of the Students Demand Action organization, attended the town hall because she doesn’t think gun violence in the United States is losing its momentum.
“People are dying more frequently and it’s not getting better,” said Swetland.
A reoccurring question during the meeting was whether the right to bear arms was at the root of the problem. A general consensus among people at the meeting was that, in order to combat this issue, lawmakers would not need to ban firearms completely. Instead, legislation should focus on avoiding illegal gun use.
“Something that we think is very important is extremist protection orders as well as universal background checks,” said Swetland. “Both of these things are very moderate policies.”
Unlike Swetland, Clemson believes that gun violence is closely linked to other pressing social issues in Syracuse.
“People who kill are people who are unloved,” said Clemons.
After her son’s death, Clemons got involved with the Mary Nelson Youth Center to help others impacted by gun violence.
“When my son died, I literally lost my mind,” said Clemons. “If I didn’t know how to deal with that, how are children going to know when they lose their relatives because of gun violence?”