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Community must combat gun violence

Two brothers, ages 17 and 18, will be buried in Charlotte Monday, gunned down together while walking to a convenience store. Neither lived a perfect life. Nor did the 17-year-old accused of killing them.

Yet this killing – by all accounts a quarrel between friends that had smoldered since junior high – was preventable. Our community should be outraged that this loss of young life happens as much as it does. We also should be as galvanized to stop it as we were by the needless death of Eve Carson, the student body president at UNC Chapel Hill.

Josh Davis, 17, and Terry Long, 18, died on a West Charlotte street June 29, shot to death. Reports suggest Mr. Davis died trying to shield his older brother, Mr. Long, from gunfire. Montrez Benjamin Williams, 17, is charged with murder. Police say the shooting stemmed from a long-standing feud that began over a girl.

Two young lives ended senselessly. Criminal charges altered another young life for the foreseeable future. It sounds like a broken record. Five other teens ages 18 and younger have been killed in shootings in Charlotte so far this year.

Almost all share a similarity: Gunplay by teenagers – some of whom apparently had flirted with lawbreaking – ended in violence.

None of those deaths created the same outcry as the shooting of Ms. Carson, 22, near campus last March. That was a terrifying, yet somewhat uncommon crime. The two men accused of her death should have been in jail, not on the street.

Yet losing lives such as Mr. Davis' and Mr. Long's is every bit as damaging, and far more common. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among juveniles age 12-17, blacks are five times as likely as whites to be homicide victims.

That statistic affects every aspect of a community, and everyone who lives in it. It's not a statistic that can be changed with law enforcement or court reforms alone. Rather, it demands – and deserves – broad-based prevention, early intervention and law enforcement efforts.

Here are a few starting places:

After-school programs in at-risk neighborhoods work. We should expand successful ones in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Gangs and guns are dangerous lures for kids without positive influences in their lives. We should strengthen laws and strengthen enforcement of existing laws.

Kids who are on the wrong path – and their parents – need courts that can deliver timely, meaningful punishment the first time a law is broken. We should increase state dollars for judges, prosecutors and computerized records.

Without such commitments, Charlotte-Mecklenburg will continue to hold vigils, like the one today for Mr. Davis and Mr. Long, for teens who have been gunned down. We pay dearly for the loss of that potential. We should take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it.

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