Gun violence is a public health problem that affects Mecklenburg County residents of all ages, in all communities, and at all stages of life.
The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has proclaimed June to be Gun Violence Awareness Month in Mecklenburg County, joining local government and organizations nationwide in recognizing the issue.
The month was kicked off by National Gun Violence Awareness Day—the first Friday in June—also known as “Wear Orange Day.” The movement has gained in recognition since being established in 2015, following the accidental shooting death of a high school student in Chicago.
The Board adopted the proclamation during its June 7 regular meeting, followed by a moment of silence. The proclamation cites data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) on gun assaults, homicides and thefts from recent years:
Tracie Campbell, Senior Health Manager of Mecklenburg County Public Health’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), received the proclamation alongside several community partners. Their orange shirts bore messages to encourage an end to gun violence.
Addressing the Board were Sylvia Stitt-Smith and Michael Smith, who lost their 23-year-old son, Samuel Harrison Stitt, to gun violence in 2019.
“A very bright young man with a very bright future,” said Ms. Stitt-Smith. “So we are well aware of the impact, personally as well as in the community, that this gun violence has on the lives of people that it touches. I am so proud of Mecklenburg County in terms of addressing it with the proclamation… I do look forward – very much look forward – to what actions the Board will take along with the proclamation.”
The couple founded the Samuel Harrison Stitt Foundation in honor of their son, an organization they say seeks solutions to end community violence, offers wellness services to survivors of homicide victims, and promotes community activism and advocacy.
“We spend an awful lot of money on punishing criminals for criminal acts and spend very little money on prevention of the acts and economics show that prevention is far more beneficial to a community,” said Mr. Smith. ““Look at all of the money that we spend after the fact. If we could spend 25% of that before the fact, it would save a family to go through what I went through.”
A recording of the full meeting is available here, where the adoption of the proclamation can be viewed beginning at 24:20.
Mecklenburg County Public Health’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) is committed to addressing the root causes of community violence – including gun violence – using data, evidence-informed best practices, and community experiences to guide solutions.
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