BUFFALO, N.Y. — Back to Basics Outreach Ministries hosted a community conversation Wednesday, which featured U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, and the Stop the Violence Coalition.

The open forum served as a Q&A session, as well as an opportunity to propose solutions to the city’s growing gun violence issue, including the VIPER federal task force.

What You Need To Know

  • Back to Basics Outreach Ministries hosted a community conversation with various local law enforcement, government and community leaders

  • The conversation was in response to the rise in fatal and nonfatal shootings in 2021

  • The first six months of this year nearly matched the average number of shootings in Buffalo annually

  • While many solutions were proposed, some remained after the conversation about whether communities and government leaders will follow through

While gun violence has been a consistent problem in Buffalo for many years, 2021 has been even more tragic, with nearly as many homicides in six months as the city’s normal yearly average, and reports of shootings just about every week.

In an effort to save lives, community leaders are joining forces with local government and law enforcement organizations, and they want everyone to be part of the narrative of making Buffalo a safer place.

“When we have a rash of shootings across Western New York, we want to see how we can prevent that and what measures the federal government is taking to prevent that as well,” said Murray Holman, executive director of the Stop the Violence Coalition and a leader of the WNY Peacemakers.

Earlier in the day, Congressman Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced the city will use $5 million from American Rescue Plan to curb gun violence.

Much of that funding, Murray says, will be used for data collection to determine geographical hotspots for gun violence and how to get weapons out of those areas.

“It is unacceptable for a 3-year-old child to get shot and killed," said Flynn. "That is unacceptable and everyone needs to realize that we need to focus and fight this problem."

Many solutions proposed Wednesday night were based in home and families, including strengthening familial structures and even a toy gun buyback, replacing pretend firearms with things like books and basketballs.

Other topics included forging a relationship between community and law enforcement, analyzing community violence from a medical aspect, collaboration between local organizations and getting illegal firearms off the streets.

“The fact of the matter is, most lawful sales — those aren’t the guns that are being used in these crimes," said Kennedy. "It’s the unlawful sales. It’s the unlawful ownership. It’s the unlawful possession that is resulting in this violence and that’s what we’re laser focused on with our state and federal partners.”

The discussion was seemingly successful, but follow-through is essential for both residents and the local government in seeing real change in the city.

“It will be productive if they continue to do what they say they’re going to do," said attendee Patricia Bozeman. "We see a lot of energy out here, but once they leave here, what are they going to do?”

“We’re accountable just as well as they’re being accountable, so that’s what it’s all about: getting information, sharing information, but making sure someone is accountable for people losing their lives here in Buffalo, New York," Holman said.