October 2023

Parents urged to ‘do the work,’ show love during Dispatch discussion on teen violence

By Bailey Gallion
Columbus Dispatch

Two teenagers on a community panel held Wednesday to discuss how to end gun violence among Columbus youth said guns were prevalent on social media, and many teens their age are afraid sometimes to do regular things such as go to school, attend parties and see movies at the theater.

“I feel like guns should be something that’s protecting you — not something that you’re scared of,” student Kalia Watkins said. “You look on the news and there’s somebody getting shot almost every day.”

The Columbus Dispatch partnered with Columbus City Council, Columbus City Schools and the Columbus Metropolitan Library system to hold the “Teens & Gun Violence” event at the main Downtown library. A couple hundred people, including activists and community leaders, attended the event to discuss the issue.

Another teen panelist, Tay’Lynn Hurt, a 15-year-old student and a member of the Columbus Urban League, drew applause from the audience for saying that parents need to express their love for their children more often.

Mulligan urged parents to lock away guns so that kids would not have access to them. Gun locks were given away at the event, and more are available at any Columbus fire station.

“Kids and teens generally get the gun they use from their home or their friend’s home, and they get it because it is not safely and securely stored,” Mulligan said.

Panelists also urged parents to be aware of who their children are involved with, follow their social media accounts, and not assume their children won’t be involved in violence.

“As an educator, I can tell you who your child is at home may likely not be who they are when they’re not with you,” St. Clair, who also teaches math at Champion Elementary School, said.

Although it can be hard to intervene in a child’s life, St. Clair said doing so before a child is involved in violence is crucial.

“Please do the work. Please interject,” St. Clair said. “It is the most painful feeling to bury your child.”

Jones said it’s important for children to be involved in extracurricular activities. After school programs and sports leagues occupy hours that children and teens may otherwise spend on the street getting into trouble, he said.

During the second half of the forum, panelists answered questions from the audience.

One audience member asked how to start conversations in their neighborhoods, and others asked how to become involved in the solution.  Mulligan said anyone could step up and get involved, and the best thing is to join others already doing the work.

“There are groups, I guarantee you, in your neighborhood doing the work. They’re doing the mentorship, they’re doing the guidance and a lot of them are completely free because it’s somebody in the community that stepped up,” Mulligan said.

The event also featured remarks from Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman, Columbus City councilmembers, Nana Watson, president of the NAACP Columbus chapter, and more. Dispatch investigative projects reporter Mike Wagner discussed The Dispatch’s recent 80 hours of gun violence project.

Watson and Columbus City Councilmember Emmanuel Remy finished the event by calling on those in attendance to sign a pledge to keep Columbus safe from gun violence.

The pledge states that residents will lock up guns to keep homes safe, mentor youths and support extra-curricular activities, and be active in communities to keep neighborhoods safe.

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