Community leaders hold symposium on youth anti-gun violence

NOW: Community leaders hold symposium on youth anti-gun violence

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Over 50 people gathered today at The Portage School of Leaders for a youth anti-gun violence symposium, which included students, educators, health professionals, law enforcement, city leaders, and families that have been hurt by gun violence. 

"In my day-to-day job, I see people that are harmed by guns on a regular basis, and the age of those that are being hurt and harmed has gone down," said Director of Medical Education for Beacon Health Systems Donald Zimmer. "And we're seeing kids that are getting affected by gun violence that are younger and younger. And so, we wanted to pull them into the conversation."

The idea behind the symposium is to try and create conversation about gun violence among the youth in the community and try and solve some of those issues.

Zimmer states, "Gun violence epidemic is complicated. And there are a lot of different facets to it. And complicated problems require complex collaboration and input from a lot of different key stakeholders."

"One of the hardest things that I ever do in the emergency department is to step into a room with parents and tell them that their child has died," Zimmer continues to state. "In order to not have to do that. I need everyone's collaboration. And we all need to work together. Because that's the one thing no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on. And this can be a divisive issue, whenever we talk about guns, but no matter what side of that argument, or how you might see things, the one thing we can all agree on is that no child in our community should be shot. And we need to work together to make sure that that doesn't happen anymore here."

"A lot of the youth that I've talked to in the past as have had some trouble with the law has always said that people just don't care about them," said Jeffonia Jones the program manager for the SAVE Outreach program. "And I just want to show them that my face and these faces around here in this room cares about them."

Jones continues, "They do not feel like they are heard at all. If we talk to a couple of the youth that may be getting in trouble in school, you say hey, why did you do this? And what happened with this adult or your teacher or your parent is like they didn't hear me out." 

"So I think it is important for us to say hey, we heard your complaints and we're here to talk to you and hear exactly what it is that you have to say and to let them know that we care," says Jones. 

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