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Latest gun violence forum in Albany concludes “it takes a village” to stop shootings

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Moderator: Joseph Popcun, Executive Director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at SUNY's Rockefeller Institute of Government; Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice; Craig Apple, Sheriff of Albany County; John McDonald III, New York State Assembly Member representing the 108th Assembly District and Richard Williams, SNUG 518 Outreach Worker from Trinity Alliance.

A virtual forum this week brought together some Albany experts to share their insights and offer solutions into the causes and consequences of gun violence.

Richard Williams is a SNUG 518 outreach worker from Trinity Alliance. “It can be a simple matter of, now going to the store, and getting into an argument because somebody might have got in front of you in the line," Williams said. "It could be so much as getting in a car accident, and you asking the other person for their insurance identification, and they shoot you. It can be something very simple, as, I live at 275, and you live at 270. And I took my trash out and set it in the front of your house. These are the things that's occurring now. And whereas before there used to be talk, now it’s just ‘I’ll shoot you. I'm young, I’ll go away, and I'm coming right back.’"

Williams says the gun violence Albany is experiencing no longer has roots in a long-running uptown vs. downtown rivalry.

“In the last 18 months, life has changed drastically. We went from one, possibly two homicides in a span of six to eight months, to two to three homicides and seven victims every other day," said Williams. "After the pandemic, what happened was, we've seen an increase, the purchase of alcohol went up 200%, the increase in domestic violence went up 35%. What the COVID-19 did was dehumanize everybody in poverty, for not going outside, from not talking to other human beings. So now your people skills are starting to diminish.”

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says anything involving a gun is of great concern to law enforcement. He told fellow-panelists that for the last decade, officials have been rolling out programs to counter gun violence, and shared details of a recent encounter his deputies experienced.

“I think it was probably 10 days ago, we had a young individual, two young individuals trawling the streets of Albany, car lights were off, and windows were down, and fully automatic machine pistol with a 50 round magazine, ready to go," Apple said. "And the driver had, loaded handgun ready to go. These are young individuals. Actually, these individuals weren't even from Albany, one was from Troy and one was from Clifton Park. But that's disturbing. When you see young individuals like that driving around, windows down, headlights off, early hours, something bad was going to happen. “

The panelists agreed there are several issues relating to self-esteem that could offer long-term solutions to deter gun violence: like youth intervention, home ownership and job-training leading to lifetime employment.

108th District state Assemblymember John McDonald is a Democrat:

“They all want to feel valued," McDonald said. "They want to feel important, and many of these young membership, they don't feel important, at all the way they're going to be important as well, to do something that gets attention. We need to get them on a different path. We need to give them a path to show them that you can be something and somebody by not using the same old policies and programs we've used.”

Moderator Joseph Popcun, Executive Director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, noted statistics showing that race is inextricably linked to gun violence in America.

Popcun said “According to CDC data, Black people in United States are 10 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white people.”

Which elicited a biting response from Center For Law and Justice Executive Director Dr. Alice Green.

“I think it's misleading and actually dangerous to say that Blacks are inextricably linked to gun violence," Green said. "To do so, I think is to suggest that they are somehow inherently more criminal and violent than other people. However, it's, it's more accurate probably to say that people in poverty are much more likely to be associated with urban gun violence. Because if Blacks are more likely to experience and use gun violence, it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with their race. And I think we've got to get away from that. “

Monday night's call for community involvement was followed by Wednesday’s school-dismissal hour shootings of a 16-year-old boy and girl in the vicinity of Quail Street and Washington Avenue and the Thursday evening shooting death of a 36-year-old man outside a KFC restaurant on Delaware Avenue.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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