Will President Obama's Initiatives Actually Stop Gun Violence Among Black Youth?

It's not Newtown, Conn., where a massacre at an elementary school galvanized the nation and spurred Washington to act. Nor has it become a symbol of gun violence like Chicago. In fact, last year in Charlotte, the number of homicides actually decreased to 52, the lowest number in 24 years.

But in a 2012 incident that echoes others around the country, a 17-year-old African-American boy here was shot and killed after another teen thought the victim disrespected him in front of a girl. The five young black men charged in his murder were teenagers as well.

So officials and community leaders here are closely watching the national debate over reducing gun violence. And when asked about the president's proposals, which include a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines, they praise the ideas, but emphasize those are only a partial solution.

"Yes and no," Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx told me in an interview Monday when I asked if the president's proposals would reduce gun violence in his city. "Clearly the concept of banning assault weapons could play a role in some of the gang-related activity, and strengthening the background checks could play a role in limiting access to violent offenders or potential violent offenders."

"But there's also an element of culture that's involved here. We can't leave out mental health issues; we can't leave out issues like the entertainment industry and the violence that gets perpetuated there," he added. "I do think there's a role for parents and neighbors and ministers and all of us who interact with our young people to help create a culture of respect, a culture in which violence is shunned.... The reality is it's a multi-tiered problem that requires multi-tiered approaches. There's no law you can pass that's going to stop it. There's no amount of control that a public organization can exert that will fool-proof us from this kind of violence."

On the day that he asked for council and community support for development projects to help struggling neighborhoods in his "State of the City" address, Foxx said, "The work we do to promote economic opportunity in our urban areas is vitally important in pointing a way for kids who ingest this kind of nihilism that damages their psychology and ultimately damages communities. If they don't have a sense of hope and investment in their futures, ultimately that's a problem for all of us."

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SOURCE: The Grio
Mary C. Curtis
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