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BPS students join scholars, anti-violence leaders for gun violence summit

Anti gun violence art work by Jalen Law
Thomas O'Neil-White
/
WBFO News
Anti gun violence art work by Jalen Law

Steering young people away from the pitfalls of street life and the resulting gun violence often associated with it is more than just an issue for law enforcement—it’s a community issue.

Homicide by guns remain an epidemicamong young Black males.

Speaking at a forum on gun violence prevention Thursday at Erie County Medical Center, University at Buffalo School of Sociology Associate Professor Christopher St. Vil reiterated the point to a group of Buffalo Public School students.

“It takes a community, right? And this is where this whole concept of community violence intervention ecosystem comes in,” he said. “We don't want to rely on the traditional approaches that get these kids locked up. The criminal justice approach. For some people it might work. We know some people go to jail, and it works for them. But for the most part, the impact of incarceration is impacting the whole community, and it's impacting these families, we have to change the way that we do things.”

Professor Christopher St. Vil (far right) speaks at a gun violence prevention forum at Erie County Medical Center
Thomas O'Neil-White
/
WBFO News
Professor Christopher St. Vil (far right) speaks at a gun violence prevention forum at Erie County Medical Center

The community-based approach includes getting young people into programs, either after school or on the weekends as a means to counter the allure of the streets.

But it’s difficult. Many of the students who spoke at the forum talked about the social, physical, economic and institutional factors that play a role in a person getting caught up in street life.

Students were not cleared to be interviewed for this story.

St. Vil said it takes youth voice and leadership to affect positive change among the youth.

“Of course we're focusing on bringing in organizations, but it's also about bringing the youth and making them also a lot more part of the solution. making them run these programs, making them come up with a different kind of intervention that they think would work in their communities with their peers.”

Leaders from community anti-violence groups said they would like to support young people who create their own anti-violence and peer meditation groups.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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