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'This is a public health crisis': Community leaders look to address gun violence

Community leaders in Columbia came together to discuss the recent increase in gun violence.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Community leaders came together Monday night to discuss gun violence in the Columbia area and what can be done to address it. 

School board members and superintendents from Richland One and Richland Two, along with elected officials, faith leaders and local law enforcement officers met on Monday night in the Dreher High School cafeteria to talk about the problem and how can they work together to tackle the problem.

"The police department and the sheriff's department, we're not the solution to this," Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. 

Holbrook said he's frustrated the community isn't more outraged by the shootings. "This absolutely has to be grassroots community."

According to Chief Holbrook, 33 people have been shot this year, seven were fatal. "This is a public health crisis is what it is," he said.

RELATED: 'No mother should have to bury her child': Sheriff calls for end to gun violence

Holbrook said the penalties for gun violence need to be tougher. "We have over 17,000 inmates in South Carolina, and only 1.1% of them in the prison population is in it for gun offense." 

Holbrook also said he believes people who pull triggers need to be held accountable. "We have no consequences for young adults carrying guns and using guns," he said.

Richland School District Two superintendent Dr. Baron Davis said as a community, residents need to start looking out for children. "A village taking care of itself or a community taking care of itself, particularly as we talk about our young students," Dr. Davis said.

RELATED: Columbia 15-year-old, 17-year-old killed in shooting

City of Columbia council member Howard Duvall said the community needs to rebuild the trust between young people and law enforcement, "to create that element of trust with our law enforcement, Chief Holbrook, the sheriff's department and the major, and all the other people that are on the line every day." 

Richland School District One school board chair Aaron Bishop said more needs to done to engage kids, to "talk about some funding opportunities to provide equitable activities in our communities.

RELATED: 17-year-old facing charges after bringing loaded gun to Lower Richland High School

While no solution was reached, the group discussed possibly offering more youth programs, as well as some church-based programs. 

The group will reconvene in 30 days to discuss solutions to help curb gun violence across the Midlands.


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