Editor's note: The gunfire that erupted at Erie High School on Tuesday came as Bishop Dwane Brock and other local leaders were in the process of crafting a community intervention strategy in response to Erie's escalating youth gun violence. Here he outlines their approach.
I dare not exacerbate the conversation around what seems to be an all too prevalent issue — the epidemic of youth gun violence. I offer my apologies if indeed I err on the side of meaningless redundancy. However, I believe that thisconsequential conversation must be addressed with a most serious intelligence — not just pious platitudesand meaningless rhetoric.
For Erie, this just may be "drastic times" and if that is the case, then it must be stated: Drastic times mustbe confronted with drastic but plausible explanations. Please let me preface this proposal bystrongly suggesting we not let our individual perceptions interfere and cause us to conclude that thisdrastic streak of gun violence is a cultural issue and is just limited to a particular culture. Nothing can be further from the truth. If we indeed allow our thinking to be poisoned by such partisan resolve, then we are truly a lost community speckled with a metastasized cancer.
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This issue affects us all; it affects the Blacks, the whites, the Hispanics, the wealthy, the poor, the educated and the undereducated. It affects the business executive as well as the ordinary laborer. It is such an epidemic that the American Medical Association has declared gun violence a serious medical issue. As I conclude the preamble of this most important letter to the community, ask yourself a question: Where are these guns coming from?
Some would suggest these firearms are originating from other cities following a drug pipeline into Erie. I am not so sure. I have been informed that many of the guns that have made their way into Erie’s inner city haveoriginated in Erie's surrounding communities. So, this gun violence issue really does cross socio-economical and racial boundaries. The average citizen only witnesses a partial perspective, which is usually dismissing it as a “Black thing,” when in reality that is a distorted, or should I say, fragmented, perspective.
Now allow me to offer the following resolutions as somewhat of a proposal. These are the actions our group has taken or sought:
The Erie County District Attorney's Office provide an actual documentation of sentences handed down to juvenileoffenders found guilty of gun violence recently in Erie. As of three weeks ago, this has been accomplished.
The District Attorney provide a laymen’s version of sentencing guidelines for juvenile offenders that can be easily read and comprehended. This alone may act as a deterrent. As of three weeks ago, this has been provided.
The aforementioned documents be sent to every family within the Erie School District via the superintendent’s office with a letter asking families to have discussions concerning the consequences of juveniles found guilty of gun violence. This is currently being reviewed by the superintendent.
Every parent conduct consistent, random searches of their child(ren)’s belongings, including, but not limited to, cellphones, bookbags, closets, dresser drawers, etc.
The appropriate judges from the Erie County Court of Common Pleas make their way into the schools to let all student know from their perspective “enough is enough” and those found guilty of gun violence are looking to serve time in prison. To date, this is currently being planned and reviewed.
Blast the media during the month of May prior to the school meetings and summer break with billboards, television public service announcements, Facebook and other social media posts. That is currently in the works.
In conclusion, it has been stated that I am the longest serving active clergyman within the city of Erie(over 42 years in Erie). Let me state with much conviction, in times like these, people becomeemotionally incited with issues of race, brainstorming ideas, proposing meetings, etc. The initiative we have been advancing, outlined above, is in no way reactionary to the incident that just transpired at Erie High School. Absolutely not!
A group of us, namely judges, attorneys, law enforcement, clergy, ex-offenders and community leaders have been conversing behind the scenes, under the radar, planning to implement this proposal during the month of May.
Blessings to all, especially those who are on the frontlines helping to make Erie a better place.
The Most Rev. Dwane Brock is bishop of the Victory Christian Center Cathedral in Erie.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: We are all affected by and accountable for Erie youth gun violence