Twin Cities summit aims to address gun violence among teens, young adults

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With the aim of giving young adults a voice and learning from their experiences, a St. Paul-based nonprofit group held a summit Saturday to address gun violence.

"I'm tired of just entertaining the idea of stopping gun violence," said Dora Jones-Robinson, founder and executive director of Mentoring Young Adults. "This has to end now because our babies are killing each other."

The 12-year-old local group hosted the event at St. Paul's High School for Recording Arts and provided cash stipends for the first 50 teens to show up, in hopes of attracting people to the summit. Jones-Robinson said her goal was to give teens and young adults a space to vent their frustrations about gun violence in their communities.

The St. Paul Police Department, Ramsey County Attorney's Office and Ramsey County Sheriff's Office all helped sponsor the event.

More than 100 teens and young adults from the Twin Cities attended the summit, listening to speakers and then breaking off into small groups to share more experiences.

"That's what I'm trying to find out today," Jones-Robinson said. "Why are they so angry and how can we correct it? Why are they so quick to shoot someone who looks like them when we all came from the same block, the same sandbox?"

Dominique White, 22, who said he moved to the Twin Cities as a teenager to start down a better path, offered his view of why young adults' anger builds, and why it sometimes leads to gun violence.

"I think they never had that leader with the same background as them, so they don't know who to look up to — and I feel like that builds on them," White said. "Also parenting, and the environment — when it's too much, they take their anger out in violence because it kind of simmers them down."

White said that with more resources and mentorship opportunities like the gun violence summit, he believes many teens can grow to lead successful lives.

This was the group's first summit; Jones-Robinson said she plans to hold another one next spring to continue the important conversations.