Children often are victims of gun violence – but that doesn’t mean they are powerless to make the world around them safer.

That’s the basic premise behind the Student Pledge to End Gun Violence.

This week around South Carolina, more than 23,000 students from 46 schools across the state – including Forest Heights and North Springs elementary schools in Columbia – signed the pledge, joining students nationwide in the annual event.

Members of the United States Attorney’s Office and their local, state, and federal law enforcement partners visited schools across the state to meet with students and conduct presentations on gun safety as part of the campaign.

“After a tragic school shooting or any incident in which young victims have died from gunfire, conversation seems to center on what adults can and should do to keep young people safe from this kind of violence,” said Student Pledge to End Gun Violence national director Mary Lewis Grow. “Such discussions fail to honor, or even to note, the role that young people themselves can play in helping to reverse the violence.”

With a focus on keeping their schools and communities safe, students in middle school and high school signed a voluntary pledge to promise they will never take a gun to school, never resolve a dispute with a gun, and promise to use their influence to prevent friends from using guns to resolve disputes.

Elementary school children made a simpler commitment, pledging that if they see a gun they will not touch it and that they will assume that any gun they see might be loaded and promising to tell a teacher or a trusted adult.

The effort here in South Carolina is part of South Carolina’s Project CeaseFire. The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is a national program that culminates each October in “A Day of National Concern about Young People and Gun Violence,” which this year fell on Oct. 19.

“The hope behind the Day of Concern is that young people, by raising their voices together to make a common promise on a common day, will be able to visualize the multiplication effect of their individual decisions,” Grow said. “Taking part in this national observance may help them imagine a collective legacy, giving their children and grandchildren a future without gun violence.”

South Carolina’s acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake emphasized how the joint state and national campaign encourages conversation among young people about how to reduce gun violence.

“This great opportunity allows teachers, counselors, and community leaders to connect with South Carolina students for a dialogue about gun violence and the importance of making good decisions,” she said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Drake said, worked with schools, student-resource officers, and law enforcement agencies throughout the state to make the pledges available, providing the pledges to participating schools as well as scheduling presentations for 25 of the schools that requested speakers.

“It is important to let young people know that while the violent world into which they were born is not their fault, this does not mean that they are without power to change it,” Grow said. “While we as adults must reaffirm our own responsibility for making the country safer from violence, we also need to let young people know that they have their own powerful, positive role to play.”

More information can be found at the national Student Pledge website.

Categories: Columbia, Crime, Education, Local News, Richland County

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