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Denver NAACP holds community meeting on gun violence

The discussion covered topics including healing trauma, having positive activities for youth, situational awareness, and gun safety and education.

DENVER — Gun violence is top of mind, especially as mass shootings in public places keep happening. 

Gun violence in Denver is also on the rise. Police said there have been 52 murders this year, which is on pace to be the most ever. 

The NAACP Denver Branch hosted a virtual community meeting on Saturday to address gun violence and find solutions in a collaborative environment. 

"We're trying to make sure that we steer community forward to be able to make sure that we come together collectively. Collectively with the police, collectively with other organizations that are doing the work, but it takes all of us," said Rashad Younger, NAACP Denver Branch 2nd Vice-President. “Being able to come together collectively to start the conversation but to take the conversation to the next step in regard to actually using some of the solutions and resources that are available to help our youth and help our community.”

Younger led Saturday's conversation with a panel of community leaders, including the Denver Police, as well as people involved in mental health resources and anti-violence programs, among others.

"There’s a lot of fear that’s been happening, especially in our community, in the Black community here in Denver, and so we wanted to have this conversation to be able to address some of those concerns, as well as to be able to try to bring solutions to the problem," Younger said. “Not only just in regards to mass shootings, but gun violence, especially in the Black community, has been a problem.”

During the meeting, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the city has already seen 52 murders this year. As of the end of June, 143 people have been shot. 

"Then, if you look at who is being hurt, who is being harmed, who is being killed in our community, it is communities of color," Pazen said.

The discussion covered healing trauma, having positive activities for youth and police interactions with people of color. They also talked about situational awareness, gun safety and education, and untraceable firearms, or "ghost guns," that have been showing up in neighborhoods.

"I think because of what happened to me, I realized that it can happen to anybody," said Samie Burnett, who came to the meeting. "This is happening every single day across the country." 

Last October, Burnett was shot in the leg during a random drive-by shooting. She was celebrating a friend's 50th birthday at another friend's house. 

“It’s one of those moments where you’re thinking, how is this happening and why is this happening and why did this happen to us when no one here is 'a target,'” she said.

Three people were shot and one person was killed. The shooter was never found.

“A lot of people have this perception that 'this community’s safe, that community’s safe, this community’s less safe, that community’s less safe.' That’s not true. I want people to understand that anyone, anytime can be a victim," Burnett said. "Now, I know when I look at what’s happening across the country, I know the pain that people are feeling in their families."

Still dealing with the trauma of what she's been through, she said it's time to come together to stop gun violence.

“It’s important to me in the Black community that we do have resources and that we do have that connection to start trying to resolve the issues of gun violence in our community and work together to have not only the resources but the action behind it to stop it," she said.

The NAACP Denver Branch said it's always looking for new members and people interested in finding solutions to gun violence.

RELATED: Shootings, murders continue to rise in Denver

RELATED: Father of student killed at Columbine hopes gun bill will lead to more action

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