GREENWOOD — About 50 people gathered at the Greenwood County Veterans Center Friday for “A Day of Action in Greenwood – Gun Control,” during which a flashlight vigil honored the victims of gun violence in the community.
Greenwood County Council member Edith Childs, who organized the event, said she began to think about the September 1988 shooting at the former Oakland Elementary School after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The memories of that school shooting locally, in which two students were killed and other students and teachers were injured, coupled with increased gun violence in the Greenwood community sparked Childs to organize the event.
Childs invited Lemont Wright, founder of the Stop the Violence organization, to speak at the event. Also among the attendees were Lavern Fuller, a member of the Greenwood School District 50 Board of Trustees, the Rev. Michael Butler, pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church and the retired assistant chief of the Greenwood Police Department, Marchelle Tompkins-Bryant and the Rev. James McKee, pastor of Durham Temple A.M.E. Church.
McKee offered a prayer of strength and the benediction as the group formed a circle and turned on flashlights in memory of those who have been victims of gun violence.
Childs said it is important for the community to come together around its young people. She advocated a background check for all who purchase guns, as well as the ban of “military” weapons. Families, she said, should take care of their homes and children and elected officials should be held accountable for their actions.
“As citizens, we need to work together to get these guns off the streets,” the council member said.
Wright said he is in favor of any effort to curb violence in the community. “Everybody wants somewhere for their children to go,” he said. “We’re looking for a way out for our youth.”
Butler said there no easy answers concerning reducing violence locally. He responded to the shooting at Oakland as a police officer and it brought home the notion that there are more victims of shootings than those who are killed. The families and friends of shooting victims are impacted forever, he said.
“It’s not as simple as a lot of people think,” Butler said, “but we’ve got to start somewhere. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people and people make poor choices.”
Tompkins-Bryant said there is a lack of activities for young people. “Gangs have our children’s minds,” she said. “We’ve got to step up and do something. We’re losing our children.”