Panel of teens address gun violence in response to recent mass shootings

·2 min read

On Easter Sunday, a massive party involving teens was held at an Airbnb on the city’s North Side — that event would claim the lives of two teens as dozens of shots rang out.

On Friday, two months later, popular WAMO radio host Kiki Brown sat down with a panel of teenagers to hear them address gun violence.

School shootings, community violence and mental health were all topics discussed during the hourlong town hall, “Stop the Music, Stop the Violence.”

Brown said the tragedy in Texas where 19 students and two teachers were killed during a school shooting on the final day of class spurred the event.

“I sent an email to my boss. We have to do something,” said Brown.

But instead of hearing from the police or city and county officials, the city’s youth led the conversation.

Dean, an 11-year-old, shared that he wanted to have more active shooter drills. He said, “We have a drill once a year (at my school).”

Fifteen-year-old Aryanna Booker-Gamez agreed and said she’d like to see more security.

Marionna Logan, a 16-year-old, shared she has lost several friends to gun violence. “They were there at the wrong time in the wrong place,” she said.

As the students spoke, in the audience sat Mayor Ed Gainey, Pittsburgh Public School’s acting superintendent, and members of the police department, listening to what these young people had to say.

When asked what city officials and the mayor could do to help curb the violence, the teenagers shared their opinions.

Jaz’miere Bates, a 15-year-old, share that “introducing kids to new things” would be nice and would ensure that those events and activities are inclusive to everyone.

Students said they want the city to offer more kid-friendly activities and clubs. They want armed security in schools and counselors available to help them feel more secure.

“The fact that administrators can’t really make them listen makes it harder for them to do their job and keep everyone safe,” said Wendoll Slade.

But most importantly, they said no one person can fix the problem of gun violence, but listening is a start.

“Nobody has the answer, so for us to get a turn to have a voice is a beautiful thing,” said Booker-Gamez.

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