Opinion: Help save us from the gun

Communities deserve a major effort from government to help turn back the rising tide of gun crime, writes Angela Lawrence.

For 25 years our communities have seen drugs, gangs and violence take hold. As I will emphasise at Community Care Live next week, under both Conservative and Labour governments our communities have been neglected and this has allowed these destructive forces to grow. We have reached a stage where a 15-year-old child can kill another child and feel little emotion.

I am clear that these issues do not only affect ethnic minority communities. But I am also clear that if we are to see an end to the violence and the destruction of our young men and their families, black communities have to give a lead and take control.

I am tired of politicians promising more punitive measures, when we know prevention is what is needed. I am tired of councils and others promising to take action in consultation exercises and then providing little money and for only two or three years. I am tired of regeneration taking place, homes being built, jobs being created, but our communities still not benefiting. You can easily find families who continue to struggle to support themselves. How can they care for their neighbours? My biggest fear is that if this continues, our sense of community will die.

Organisations such as Mothers Against Violence in Manchester, as well as parents like me, are working hard to change this situation. We are working with parents to support positive parenting through parent programmes such as Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities. We are campaigning for local authorities to ensure they invest in high quality schools, safe play areas and support for parents. We are supporting children and young people to contribute to their communities.

I know that a problem that has developed over 25 years needs a commitment to act over 25 years. I am committed to ensuring that history will record that we did bring about change. I am also committed to ensuring that everyone who needs to play a part in this change is equally committed to this long-term strategy.

My final thought is that we reap what we sow, and we need to sow something positive.

Angela Lawrence is a member of Mothers Against Violence in Manchester. MAV was formed in 1999 after four shootings in one week which led to a meeting of mothers from south Manchester to discuss how the community could prevent gun crime and put children off gang culture and crime. Angela will be appearing at Community Care LIVE on 16 and 17 May in London


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