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#MyFutureMyChoice town hall kicks off campaign

Join the #MyFutureMyChoice movement against gun violence

Gun violence continues to affect children in Miami-Dade County. Some are picking up guns and others are getting caught in the cross fire. Most recently, bullets were flying over a social media dispute. Six-year-old King Carter was on his way to buy candy and never made it. 

His death started the #SaveOurKings movement. King's dad, Santonio Carter, said one of the teens responsible for the shooting called him to apologize. And he has been doing everything in his power to honor his son's memory. He attended the Local 10 News' #MyFutureMyChoice town hall April 15 at the historic Lyric Theater.

Local 10 News President Bert Medina said the teens who are picking up guns are losing hope and need to know that guns are not the solution to their problems. They need more role models and examples of members of the community who have thrived despite their difficulties. 

"We are not naïve to think this will solve this crisis, but we pledge to do our part." Medina said. "And hopefully a small seed we plant can grow." 

Some 400 turned out to Overtown to focus on solutions, as the #MyFutureMyChoice campaign kicked off with a panel of community leaders, inspiring teenagers who have found their way and mentors volunteering their time. Medina said Local 10 News will continue to cover the hopeful stories. 

In a #MyFutureMyChoice editorial, Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian A. Moffett said Miami-Dade is facing an "epidemic of violence." In the national front, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has described gun violence as a "health epidemic." 

"We need to be able to track gun ownership as well as distribution of ammunition to minors," Moffett said. "But in many homes, there is a total disregard for accountability, increasing the presence of guns and ammunition on the streets." '

THE CONVERSATION

Luther Campbell, better known as Uncle Luke, got his street cred in the 90s with songs like "A--- Naked" and "Fakin' Like Gangsters." In April, the Miami New Times published his "Five-Point Plan To End The Gun Violence Plaguing Miami." 

Campbell wants the local police departments, the school board, The Miami-Dade Children's Trust, The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the federal government to fix the problem. And he wants Moffett out. 

"Bring back former Miami-Dade County public Schools Police Chief Gerald Darling," Campbell said. In the late 90s, Darling "dismantled the city's inner-city drug gangs."

Parents who have lost their children to gun violence are growing impatient. On Facebook, Tangela Sears said she is "angry, frustrated, mad, furious" and is struggling with "crazy thoughts."  The mothers, Sears said, are being "ignored by leaders" and "the system." Searsh said her pressure is high and she is tired. 

After a recent support group meeting with Sears, Regina Talabert said her daughter Noricia Talabert, 17, made all the right choices. She had good grades and had plans to go to the University of Central Florida. The head of a gang was targeting someone else and her daughter died in the cross fire, Talabert said.

"His family didn't give him the love he needed," Talabert said.  "He chose gangs and my daughter paid with her life."

Noricia is one of the 63 teenagers who died of gunshot wounds from 2013 to 2015 in Miami-Dade County, according to the medical examiner's office. The majority of the children and teenagers were male, African-American and from neighborhoods with a history of institutionalized segregation. As school funding remains linked to property taxes, many attend some of the worst schools in Miami-Dade County.  

Talabert and Sears said there is a desperate need for psychological and psychiatric services for the poor, who face the after-math of gun violence with little resources.

'NOT ALONE'

Last year, there were 53,030 gun violence incidents in the country, according to federal authorities. A group of four former U.S. Surgeons General, including a President George W. Bush appointee, criticized a 20-year-old ban on federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work on gun violence research.   

"It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation's public health," said a letter signed by Drs. Regina Benjamin, Richard Carmona, Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher. They have the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Society and National Association of Medical Examiners. 

"If a child can't open a bottle of aspiring, we should make sure they can't pull a trigger on a gun," President Barack Obama said during a speech earlier this year. He wept in front of relatives of gun violence victims.

Republican supporters of the National Rifle Association criticized the effort as gun control disguised as public health research. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to dismantle Obama's executive action.

NEW EFFORTS

As Republicans and Democrats struggle to find a solution, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle told her staff that she was "saddened" and she understood that it was "heartbreaking" for prosecutors. 

"Poor housing conditions, lack of employment, a lack of high school completion and other available educational opportunities, limited police resources and the hesitancy of crime victims and witnesses to cooperate with police and prosecutors all contribute to the problem," Fernandez-Rundle said.  

Both Sears and Campbell accused Fernandez-Rundle of caring about politics more than justice. Sears said some of her prosecutors are not "tough enough on crime." But in the statement to her staff, Fernandez-Rundle said she was taking action.

She established a permanent gun violence unit to continue an anti-gun violence initiative that started with a "largely successful" pilot in North Miami-Dade. She tasked chief assistants Jose Arrojo and Esther Jacobo, gang unit chief Frank Ledee and career criminal unit chief Deisy Hernandez to lead the unit.  

"Our local and federal partners" will "trace the use of firearms across open and pending cases," because "we owe our citizens in these victimized neighborhoods nothing less than our best efforts," Fernandez-Rundle said. 

OUR COMMITMENT

Local 10 News remains committed to focus on the solution, as we continue to serve the community with our reporting. We welcome you to join the #MyFutureMyChoice conversation on Local10.com. Are you doing something to make a difference in our community, share your ideas and efforts at Share@Local10.com.

 

What changes can public institutions make to help children?

How can public schools help to stop the cycle of violence?

How can local officials help the community to save lives?

How can we inspire children to make better choices?

How can the community stand together against criminal gangs?

 

WPLG's My Future My Choice initiative is not affiliated with My Future My Choice Inc., a Broward County nonprofit organization.

The Washington Post and The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


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