Organizers of a gun-violence awareness rally today in north Minneapolis say they want to see tougher gun laws at the state and federal levels.
The rally included about 200 children who are enrolled in free after-school programs in the Twin Cities sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Children's Defense Fund.
The children gathered in the parking lot of the YMCA, not far from where Catrice Champion's adult son was shot and killed in 2007. Too many inner-city kids and parents live in fear of violence, Champion said.
"We shouldn't have to walk hand-in-hand with our babies all the time. We should be able to watch from a distance and watch them play," Champion said. "We should be able to have our 9- or 10-year-old girl walk herself across the street from over there to the Y and know she'll make it there safe."
Some children at the rally wore red T-shirts to represent the number of children in Minnesota who died from shootings in the last decade. The number of juvenile gunshot victims in Minneapolis declined by 76 percent between 2006 and 2012. According to Minneapolis Police Department data, reports of people hit by gun fire have increased 17 percent compared to this time last year. Officers have also recovered more guns from traffic stops and crime scenes this year than they did at this point in 2012.
Children's Defense Fund volunteer Raymond Kidd, 30, said ending gun violence in the inner city will take the combined efforts of tougher gun laws and community pressure on young people to discourage them from using guns.
"It's not just one piece we can point at and say, 'Hey it's your fault, or it's your fault,'" Kidd said. "It takes a community. It takes a city. It takes a state. It takes a nation. And that's why this rally is happening right now."