Beyond the bullet: Guns Down Movement sparks conversation in Norfolk

Posted at 10:54 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 23:35:56-05

NORFOLK, Va. - On Wednesday night, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone and a diverse group of anti-gun violence experts gathered to tackle the conversation of keeping young men alive and getting illegal guns off the streets.

Chief Boone says it's a topic that isn't on the forefront of conversation like it should be.

"I think people are so numb to it that they just tune out."

African American men 15-34 years old are dying, finding themselves at both ends of the barrel. Chief Boone says, "People that hear this should say, 'Okay, well, what can I do? What haven't I been doing?'"

Boone says change starts by looking at and understanding the statistics surrounding gun violence. Of the 1,009 homicides since 1989, 780 have been African-American men.

Kayla Hicks, a member of the panel and National Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, says, "[Gun violence] is the number one cause of death for black males under the age of 55, and that defines it as a public health issue."

On top of the violence, Boone says the focus also needs to be on tracking where the gun came from in the first place. It's something that the Norfolk Police Department has been doing for quite some time now.

He says the majority of the time guns used in a crime have been stolen and not reported missing.

"Only 226 out of 2,000 something guns reported stolen - that's a system that's flawed."

It's a system that Stacey Robinson, Founder of Kings In Need of Development - K.I.N.D., knows well. During the panel, he shared his personal experience of being shot at the age of 18, losing his father when he was just a few months old, losing a son to gun violence and losing another son to the prison system.

He says the only way this cycle can begin to be fixed is by, "[giving young men] hope, something tangible [like] vocational training, education, drug counseling [etc.] and we have to have this readily available to people, but it's not there."

The expert panelists involved in Wednesday's event are now an important chapter in the Guns Down Movement, each person using their different background to understand the cause and effect of illegal guns circulating the community.

"There are more conversations that we have beyond gun violence because this conversation is beyond the bullet," Hicks says.