ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – People on the front lines of gun violence say they’re weary of just talking about solutions.
“I keep telling young men, if you do something bad, there’s going to be a consequence. But I tell people in panels like this, doing nothing has a consequence, as well.”
Charles Mayo is founder of Hood Helpers, an organizer working with community leaders to try and stop violence. He was part of a discussion hosted by the Gun Violence Initiative and the Institute for Public Health at Washington University Wednesday night.
The former gang member lives in the 27th ward of St. Louis city — he says young men in his life are dying.
“We have a bunch of people coming, forming meetings, and they’re feel-good meetings,” Mayo says. “Saying a bunch of cute things, walking away, feeling good. And here you are, these young men, have to go back to these situations. Raw.”
Mayo says before you tell a young person to give up their guns., you have to understand their circumstances and their experiences.
“I was 17 years old, caught my first gunshot to the leg,” he says. “Changed my idea, let me explain something to you, either you get shot at, or you get shot. If you don’t die, it’s going to turn you into one thing — you’re going to either be a shooter or a victim.”
He says neighborhoods continue to lose jobs, quality education, and athletic opportunities — things that make young people feel valuable. He says it’s going to take people coming off the side lines — instead of playing it safe — to create real change.
The panel discussion was opened by Lois Schaffer, author of the book “The Unthinkable,” about the murder of her 48-year-old daugher at the hands of two robbers. Schaffer urges victims to demand action.