ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – For freshman Missouri State Representative Bruce Franks it was the realization of a dream to memorialize the brother he lost to gun violence in 1991.
On Wednesday evening he hosted the first-ever “St. Louis Youth Violence Prevention Day” at Love Bank Park, Cherokee at Nebraska in south city.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to take this day and change it into something positive,” the Democrat who represents the 78th District told KMOX News. “Change it into a day of advocacy against youth violence and against gun violence as a whole.”
Happening nearby as he spoke, kids of all ages were having a great time taking part in a free-for-all basketball game as a DJ blasted tunes and volunteers prepared plenty of free food and drink.
There were also awards handed out to local residents who’ve been making a difference in their community.
It was all as Franks had envisioned it when he filed a bill to make June 7th “Youth VIolence Prevention Day” during his first session in Jefferson City.
“Until we can cut down on a lot of these loopholes and lax laws that we have, then we can stop the guns from coming in (to our neighborhoods),” he explained. “What we have to do now is make the guns irrelevant. Nobody’s going to use what they don’t think they need. So we give them something else — put down the gun and we’re going to give you a book, we’re going to give you a job, we’re going to give you a mentor.”
The party took place in St. Louis city alderman Dan Guenther’s 9th Ward.
“The people that we’re recognizing today are the people that are out here offering the kids something to do,” he said. “Not relying always on your typical avenues such as churches or rec centers. We as a community have to bring people together, offer programming and alternatives to misbehaving.”
Watching the events that he had spearheaded unfold before his eyes put a big smile on Rep. Franks’ face.
“We’re showing them that there’s hope,” Franks said as he watched the kids take part in their rowdy basketball game. “All too often in our community we don’t receive that hope. We don’t know what that hope or that change looks like. We hear people talk about it but nobody’s ever painted that canvas for us.”
From where he stood on the sidelines, the canvas Bruce helped to paint on this day looked like a masterpiece.