Local pastors call for more hands-on approach to tackle gun violence in Columbia

MORE Justice is advocating for the use of group violence intervention (GVI) to curb the number of gun crimes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —A group of Columbia pastors is encouraging city leaders to implement a more hands-on approach to combating gun violence.

The MORE Justice ministry, a group of 34 churches and congregations in Columbia, have focused their efforts this year on slowing the rate of gun violence in the city, a rate that doubled from 2018 to 2019.

“I’ve had the unfortunate task of presiding over and preaching funerals for victims of gun violence, and it’s a different kind of pain. It hurts anytime you lose a loved one, and gun violence in particular,” said Rev. Adam China of Adams Northeast AME Church.

The Columbia Police Department says there have been 28 incidents where a shooting has left someone injured this year, down from 46 at this point last year.

To help further curb the number of gun crimes, MORE Justice is pushing for city-wide implementation of a technique called group violence intervention, which looks to develop strong community connections to prevent urges to commit violent acts.

“Five percent of the people are committing 85% of the crimes. We keep finding in the research that those who are involved with gun violence or persons who used to be involved in gun violence and may have been incarcerated and come out, those persons want to be involved in prevention but they’re often left out of the conversation,” said Rev. Carey Grady of Reid Chapel AME Church. 

Recently, the Columbia Police Department began taking part in the “Project Safe Neighborhoods” initiative to help law enforcement develop stronger relationships with the neighborhoods they serve.

“We appreciate local law enforcement for their initiatives, but I really believe the group violence intervention takes it a step farther. It’s really trying to break the cycle of violence that permeate in so many negative ways,” said Rev. Eric Fink of Living Springs Lutheran Church.

This past week, several MORE Justice members took part in a day of Prayer and Action, signing a letter directed at city leaders encouraging the full implementation of group violence intervention throughout the city.

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