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Gun violence forum in Syracuse exposes SU students to plight of urban communities

Tom Magnarelli
Students from the School of Social Work in Falk College at Syracuse University attend the gun violence forum at the Onondaga County Legislature.

Students at Syracuse University’s School of Social Work in Falk College are learning about the ramifications and public policies regarding gun violence in the city of Syracuse. Activists spoke with students recently about how race and economic inequality factors into gun violence in the community.

Clifford Ryan, a prominent advocate in Syracuse who lost his son to gun violence, said he spoke with SU students to shed light on the plight of the urban community, what he went through growing up and how he dealt with losing family members. Ryan said it is his duty to bring it to the broader community’s attention.

“That’s very important in the dynamics of trying to restructure the relationships between the communities and races and the healing process and the changing of that and correcting it,” Ryan said. "Everything, all of the above, is needed to bring our community back to what it was and should be and can be.”

The Syracuse Police Department has received more calls reporting shootings this year compared to 2015. This year, there has been 90 calls to report shootings with an injury, up from 67 the previous year. More than 300 calls of shots fired but with no injuries have so far been reported in 2016, up from about 200 in 2015.     

Mark Cass, the director of the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, said his organization is about engaging with ordinary people to get them involved in the public policies and the political process that can help fix issues such as gun violence.  

“Clearly, we need some federal action," Cass said. "New York has pretty strict gun laws but you can easily drive them over the border. We also see much deeper things, concentrated poverty, lack of jobs that contribute to the problem of gun violence.”

Cass and other speakers at the annual forum encouraged the SU students to get off University Hill.

"Those we have engaged have made tremendous impacts within our organization," Cass said. "We've established a youth council with help from SU students from Maxwell, Social Work and others. I do think while they may be temporary residents here, they can learn a lot and contribute a lot if they do engage with the community."

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.