Virtual town hall on gun violence in Columbus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Community leaders, activists, religious leaders, a juvenile court judge, police and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence are all addressing the spike in gun violence happening in Columbus.

For about an hour and a half on Thursday they took part in a discussion during a virtual town hall hosted by Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin.  

“Hopefully our collective actions bring forth meaningful change that can address the violent tendencies plaguing our community,” said Deputy Chief Tim Becker with the Columbus Division of Police.  

Danielle Hook was also part of the virtual town hall. Early in August her 17-year-old son, Perniel, was shot and killed on the east side. A suspect has been arrested. 

“His two year old sister, she yells his name all day and we have to tell her Perniel’s not here,” Hook said. ““He was a really good kid and it’s heartbreaking that someone would take an innocent life like the way they took his.”  

She joined the virtual call just four weeks after she lost her son hoping more families will not have to go through what she’s dealing with now.

“Put the guns down. They don’t know how much y’all are tearing these families apart. Y’all need to put the guns down,” she said.  

Community activists spoke too, saying there needs to be more proactive measures in place to prevent violence in the first place.

Deputy Chief Becker said the gun unit is the division’s first line of defense in trying to change the behavior of those getting involved in violence. He says most of the violence comes down to what he called the ‘three D’s’: drugs, disrespect and domestic violence.  

“Nobody should fear a cookout in a park, putting their child to bed at night, or walking down a street in broad daylight,” he said.  

As police have been doing all summer, he also encouraged people who have information on violent crimes to speak up. 

“If you see something, say something,” Becker said. “Just like Miss Hook there’s a lot of parents out there who can’t understand why their loved one is gone. Don’t do it for the police. Do it for our victims’ families.” 

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