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Local organizations against gun violence say efforts can't work without community help

With several shootings involving children happening throughout the summer, we asked Midlands organizations against gun violence if they think efforts are working.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — After a handful of shootings involving children lately, Midlands organizations against gun violence are continuing their work and asking the community for more involvement.

Since mid-June, Serve and Connect has been hosting community events to help decrease gun violence and establish community relationships with law enforcement.

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However, despite their efforts gun violence has continued throughout the summer.

"Gun violence is such a big issue that it's not something we can solve on our own," said Serve and Connect representative, Erica Staley. "We need the community to come together and support us and support one another."

Richland County Sheriff's Department has partnered with Serve and Connect for block parties to hand out food, play games with the kids who attend, and pass out gun locks.

Deputy Jason Cuzzupe explained that he and the C.A.T. squad have handed out hundreds of gun locks over the summer, but they need the community to use the locks and logic when it comes to storing guns to help decrease the violence.

"We recently got a shipment of 300 locks that have been halfway given out... We can keep passing out locks, but it really comes down to the community being more aware of where their guns are and that they are putting them away in a safe space, away from children."

Local mom, Saleemah Graham Flemming, has been affected by gun violence herself with the shooting death of her daughter Sanaa Amenhotep in April of last year. This tragedy motivated her to start the organization Mothers of Slain Teens

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Flemming also has a 6-year-old daughter, who will be going back to school this fall. She says the violence in the community makes her a little nervous, but she's hoping for things to get better with community efforts.

"I think if there were more things for kids to do outside of school and sports, we would see an end to this. Gun violence is a mental health and general well-being issue, but if we all work together and make sure kids have what they need, we can put a stop to it," Flemming said.

Serve and Connect points to access issues and poverty as a large part of gun violence, and they are hoping to offer resources spanning from therapy to activity groups to give people more access to things they need.

The final block party will take place Thursday, August 11, from 4-5 p.m. at the  Katheryn M. Bellfield Cultural Arts Center. 

 Another "Stop the Violence" will be hosted this Saturday, August 13 at Bluff Road Park, where faith leaders in the community will be gathering to address gun violence issues through prayer. The event will start at 5 p.m.

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