Chicago Gun Violence

Chicago activists react after U.S. Surgeon General declares gun violence a public health crisis

Murthy made the announcement on Tuesday morning

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the first time in history in the office of the U.S. Surgeon General, the nation’s leading doctor is declaring gun violence a public health crisis in America, leaving Chicago activists to react to the news.

“Our children should not have to live in fear that they’re going to get shot if they go to school,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy. “None of us should have to worry that going to the mall or a concert or a house of worship means putting our lives at risk.”

Murthy warned Americans of the growing problem and laid out the approach to address gun violence across the country.

“This includes implement a community violence prevention programs and firearms risk reduction strategies, improving access to mental health care for those exposed to or at risk for firearm violence,” he said.

Pastor Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church on Chicago's South Side weighed in on the declaration.

“It’s definitely a public health crisis,” said Brooks. “Listen, you can’t get anything done when there’s violence. You can’t have sustainable businesses; you can’t have family who live in a community want to make that community a safe place because they’re going to continue to move out and move away as we see in Chicago happening every single day.”

The pastor said his congregation is working to tackle the problem by offering around-the-clock services and resources, including camp for 300 teens this summer.

“This is our largest group this summer and they’re excited to have a place to go where they’re safe to be able to play to be able to be children,” he said.

Since Father’s Day, numbers from the Chicago Police Department show that 28 children and teens have been shot in the city. Brooks says he’s been trying to address the root causes of violence and believes a new community center in his neighborhood is the answer.

“We have to make sure every child in the city has a safe place and when we do that the city will be much better,” he said. “People will be able to live lives and most of all young people will be able to grow up and reach their full potential.”

Brooks gave NBC Chicago a tour of the 90,000 square foot facility that’s still under construction. The goal is to open next summer.

“$5 million gets us to where we have to be,” he explained.

Renderings provided show a state-of-the-art center with classrooms, a movie theater, a swimming pool, basketball courts, and so much more to serve the youth.

“We want them to be able to have all the activities that young people should be able to have regardless of where they live,” he said.

The pastor told NBC Chicago more funding is needed and knows in the end the facility in Woodlawn could help save a life.

“We’re going to do our part and we’re going to work hard,” he said. “We’re going to make Chicago’s Woodlawn a safe place and we’re going to do it with a lot of unity and a lot of love.”

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