Bro. Andrew L. Dixon, III
President, Gamma Mu Lambda Chapter
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Earlier in March, the Gamma Mu Lambda Chapter partnered with the Christian Social Action Committee of Bethel A.M.E. Church to host A Community Forum on Gun Violence and Gun Safety.

My vision for this forum was to moderate a discussion amongst a panel of city officials familiar with relevant statistics, law enforcement officials to discuss their efforts to curb violence as well as the trends they are see in its rise, as well as those cognizant of gun rights issues to discuss the importance of legal gun ownership, safety and de-escalation. 

As reported by media partners from WCTV and The Tallahassee Democrat we were able to host a successful panel discussion. Bro. Curtis Richardson of the City Commission spoke about his personal connection to gun violence in the city, as well as efforts through various council and city initiatives to provide programs such as the Tallahassee TEMPO Program, Capital City Youth Services, Pivotal Point Enterprises to address the issue. Leon County Sheriff, Walt McNeil, accompanied by Assistant Sheriffs Argatha Gilmore and Steve Harrelson spoke to the generational and social issues which leads too many young people into negative situations as well as the importance of the programs to which Bro. Richardson alluded, concluding that “you can’t arrest your way out of this problem”.  Deputy Chief Maurice Holmes of the Tallahassee Police Department provided some important statistics and that shed light on the genesis of many of the gun crimes, including disagreements amongst different groups and the failure of citizens to secure their firearms in their vehicles.

While it would appear that law enforcement dominated the conversation, it is important to note the contributions of Bro. Philip Smith of the National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) to the conversation. Bro. Smith spoke about the growing number of African-Americans who have become lawful gun owners, what his own research has revealed as it relates to young people becoming involved in gun violence, the importance of legal gun ownership, proper training and education; and the support of the NAAGA for background checks in order to keep firearms out of the hands of people who do not need to possess them. There is an intersectionality between legal gun ownership amongst African Americans and the reduction of gun violence, he believes, emphasizing the items mentioned above.

The audience contained several members of the community, including professors, clergy, attorneys and other community activists such as the leaders of the Council Status of Men and Boys and the Urban League. They were active participants and asked several pertinent questions.

The issue of gun violence our community was never going to solved over the course of two hours. This forum was a first step in the conversation, which, as Deputy Gilmore stated, will hopefully lead to a meaningful solution. 

The Gamma Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is willing and ready to aid in this effort and work with any of the organizations in the Tallahassee area committed to reducing the incidence of gun violence that disproportionately affects the Black community.

I would be remiss if I did not thank our hosts and co-sponsors, the Christian Social Action Committee  at Bethel A.M.E. Church. Ms. Cassandra Jenkins and Bro. Rev. Julius McAllister were nothing less than enthusiastic in their desire to host and co-sponsor this event and their partnership is appreciated immensely.