When police and school officials call a press conference to talk about kids and guns, it's usually because a child has gotten hold of one and done something bad.
But on Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials faced the media in hopes of preventing a shooting, not to discuss one. They urged parents to educate their children about the dangers of gun violence, and voiced hopes that their joint concern might help rally the community.
Police Chief Rodney Monroe recalled going to the scene of the August shooting of 14-year-old Ashante Mayfield, who was killed after authorities said a group of young women got into an argument on a West Charlotte street.
A 19-year-old woman later turned herself in to police. Monroe said Ashante had been shot “over something very petty.” At least four young people have lost their lives this year due to gun violence, he said. He noted that police took about 2,700 guns off the streets last year, many of them from young people, many of them stolen.
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“Guns in the hands of the wrong people equal tragedy every single time,” he said. “I don't think we can just look at it as a school problem. It's a social problem, and we have to address it together.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh said last school year officials seized 12 guns at schools, but have taken just one this year.
“We want to see that number at zero, and we will continue to work to get it there,” he said. “All of us need to work together on this issue.”
Families are key, said Willie Ratchford, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee. His organization plans to put a series of recommendations before city and county officials to strengthen parenting skills. Their report will also help launch a “Year of the Parent” media campaign.
Sheriff Chipp Bailey said gun violence plays an increasingly common role in the jailings of teenagers. He sent this warning to young people. “It doesn't take but a split second of anger to make a mistake you're going to pay for the rest of your life,” he said.