FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP rallied alongside community members on the steps of Fort Wayne Police Headquarters on Thursday and urged residents of the city to urge lawmakers to support more gun regulation. This was in response to a recent rash of gun violence in the city.
Rev. Dr. Saharra Bledsoe, president of this chapter of the NAACP, urged young citizens to help stop the violence.
"Instead of picking up a gun, pick up a book," she said. "Young people, we love you. We are here for you. We don't want to scoop up your dead body. We want to embrace you with love."
Members of our community including first responders like Fire Chief Amy Biggs and Police Chief Rusty York came out to show their support. Chief York said, "That's what we need in our community and for the first time really in the 13+ years that I've been Chief seeing the community this motivated I mean it's not just the NAACP which is great but the Urban League, the faith based community and that's what it's going to take."
Bledsoe along with several others are calling for change - a change in attitudes, community action, and stricter gun laws.
"If there's more police presence it might curb some of the violence. It just don't start with the police, it starts with the parents as well. I mean this is crazy," Omar Muhammad said.
The cousin of the teen killed Wednesday is also asking people with information on any of the homicides to call police. "He was just a baby. When you 16, 17 years old, you still a baby. You haven't did nothing. You haven't lived nothing. You haven't even fulfilled a dream," Muhammad said.
Chief York said witnesses are coming forward and the rally is a start for the community heading in the right direction. Witnesses of any violent killing were also urged to come forward with information and call police or Crime Stoppers at 260-436-STOP.
The NAACP issued a release with following recommended strategies:
1. Making background checks universal.
2. Improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally ill.
3. Banning assault weapons.
4. Capping magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets.
5. Purging armor-piercing bullets.
6. Funding police officers.
7. Strengthening gun tracking.
8. Supporting research on gun violence.
9. Encouraging mental health providers to get involved.
10. Promoting safe gun ownership.
11. Funding school counseling.
12. Encouraging safe, anti-bullying school environments.
13. Recognizing the mental health needs of low-income Americans.
14. Contacting your Senator by April 8.
The NAACP invites everyone to participate in their "Stop the Violence, Stop the Funerals, Pick up a Book not a Gun" rally and march on Saturday, April 27th from 10am-3pm. They'll march from Pontiac Street and South Anthony Boulevard to McKinney Avenue and South Anthony Boulevard. Other NAACP chapters across the state will show up that day to show their support.
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