The mother of Nadria Wright, killed in a Sept. 13 shooting in Columbia, on Tuesday said her new organization plans to make a difference against gun violence.
Wright’s mother, Shaunda Hamilton, was part of a panel discussion “Critical Problem Response: A Discussion on Gun Violence” in Swallow Hall at the University of Missouri. Hamilton has formed Boone County Community Against Gun Violence.
“We’re going to do things that are trying to change mindsets,” Hamilton said.
The new organization held its first event Sunday at the Boys and Girls Club, including training from the trauma team at University of Missouri Hospital in methods to stop bleeding in a victim until emergency workers can arrive.
Other panelists included James Gray, an associate pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church who also is involved in Boone County Community Against Gun Violence, and Bill Thompson, a community organizer and youth services professional.
Wright, an 18-year-old Columbia College student, was killed by a gunman who fired into a car driven by Sam Baldwin IV in which Wright was a passenger. Baldwin had given Wright a ride to McDonald’s because she had lost her glasses and couldn’t see to drive, Hamilton, in tears, told the around 80 in attendance.
The gunman had been after Baldwin and waited for the right moment to shoot him, she said. Wright had just graduated from high school in May. Baldwin was seriously injured in the shooting.
Javion Martae Lawhorn-Wallace was arrested in St. Louis for the shooting.
Ashley Woodson, assistant professor in the MU College of Education, moderated the discussion.
“It’s unacceptable that children are dying,” Woodson said. That the gun deaths occur in a town with a university that could help provide solutions is an additional problem, she said.
“We’re in a cultural moment that feels like a crisis,” Woodson said.
A 13-year-old boy on Oct. 19 became the 14th person to die of gun violence in the county this year. Six were killed in a two-week period in September. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece recently met with the mayors of Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis to present a united front against gun violence. Their focus is on better mental health and drug abuse treatment, reducing access to firearms and better witness protection.
Thompson said a breakdown in family structures is partly to blame for gun violence. The anger of young people is increasing, he said.
“How do you defuse some of this anger?” he said. “That’s the biggest issue. It’s like they’re living in a video game.”
Some shootings can be attributed to something as mundane as someone not liking what someone said about someone else, he said.
Hamilton said she worried more about her sons being killed than she did her daughter.
“Never in a million years did I think it was my daughter that would be murdered,” she said.
Her daughter “wasn’t one of those kids,” Hamilton said. She didn’t have a criminal record. She had been to China and spoke Chinese. She played the saxophone.
“She had dreams and aspirations,” Hamilton said. “If you think you live somewhere and your child is safe, you might want to think again.”
Hamilton said her family owns guns for protection. Her daughter had been hunting and to the gun range.
“They were taught how to use guns correctly,” she said of her children.
“A lot of the violence going on is family violence and cross-town rivals,” Hamilton said.
She said since the increase in gun violence in Columbia, many of her friends have armed themselves with guns. Older white women she knows have bought guns.
“They don’t feel safe here at all,” Hamilton said.
“Our young people are not scared to die, they’re scared to live,” Gray said.
Gray said communication is important, but so is action.
“It’s time to stop talking about it and make it happen,” he said. “We need people that want to make a difference and not just talk about it.”
Everyone needs to be part of the solution, said Bini Sebastian, a doctoral student in counseling psychology, from the audience.
“It’s a choice for us to get involved,” she said.
Boone County Community Against Violence is planning an event in December around solutions to gun violence, Gray said.