Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

In Cleveland, nearly 500 people have been shot since the start of 2022. Statewide, gun violence claims an average of 1,602 lives each year. It is also the leading cause of death among children and teens in Ohio.  

Chardon Black, an 11th grader at the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, said adults dominate the discourse on gun violence today. But there is a missing perspective, he says – the teenage point of view.

“The movement has gone stale,” Black said, citing statistics that show an increase in gun violence across the country and Ohio in recent years. “Results are not as fruitful as they need to be.”

Black explained that the youth, who are often the greatest victims of gun violence, have  different views of the world today, and can provide “new solutions to solve its problems.”

Black is a student blogger for the Unsilenced Voices of CMSD and a participant in the school district’s Civics 2.0 program, which hosted a symposium on the prevention of gun violence this month at the school district’s headquarters.

The symposium, in which Black delivered an impressive opening speech, gave students from 23 Cleveland high schools the opportunity to create action plans for addressing gun violence in their schools and communities. Before breaking off into discussion groups, the students heard from a panel of experts and individuals whose lives had been affected by gun violence in Cleveland.

Students from Collinwood High school discuss how young people can lead the movement against gun violence. December 6, 2022.
Students from Collinwood High school discuss how young people can lead the movement against gun violence. December 6, 2022. Credit: Paul Rochford / Signal Cleveland

Signal Cleveland asked students from several of the discussion groups, organized by school, to share their takeaways from the panel presentation and the discussion they had with their classmates. Here’s what they said:

Note: Signal Cleveland is not using students’ names to allow them to speak freely.

Gun violence affects our generation; kids do have access to guns – Lincoln West HS

“I feel like our generation just feels that guns are the way to go, and it’s really not. It’s like they more so fight with guns than with their hands. Back in the day they had guns and all that, but it was never this serious. I think it’s gotten worse. I’ve heard of students getting shot just because they beat another football team.”

“I learned that there’s more gun violence than I actually knew [about]. Me, personally, I stay in the house, I do sports and all that, but I stay in the house and do my homework and all. I’m learning though, that out in the world, fights are involving more and more guns through the years.”

“The kids nowadays say ‘I’m cool now, I’ve got a firearm on me, I can protect myself.’ I understand if you want to protect yourself, but just shooting someone because they’ve got beef with you or you don’t get your way, that’s a different story.”

“It’s kind of scary because people that I know have gotten shot, and people that I know, know people who got shot. They’ll come home crying, saying, ‘yeah, my friend got shot.’ That is kind of a scary thing. Like, what if that actually happened to my family, you know? Just because someone had beef or something. They do it for stupid reasons, but they have guns.”

Student activists and survivors should speak with their peers – Collinwood HS

Campus International High School graduate Makayla Barlow speaks to CMSD students about being a survivor of gun violence and becoming an activist.
Campus International High School graduate Makayla Barlow speaks to CMSD students about being a survivor of gun violence and becoming an activist.

During the panel presentation, a graduate of Campus International High School, Makayla Barlow, shared her story of surviving a stray gunshot to the head while driving and eventually becoming an activist against gun violence. Students from Collinwood High School shared why they thought having a survivor and activist like her speak to an audience of peers could help curb gun violence.

“If she were to tell her story to our students, people might lighten up on gun violence, and kids at my school might not bring guns to schools or carry them around. I feel like she should go to a lot of CMSD schools because a lot of them have been targeting gun violence.”

“[Makayla] put a lot in perspective for me. She had first hand experience of being someone affected by gun violence directly. It affected her life in an immediate way and she didn’t even have a gun and wasn’t even involved in a gunfight.”

“She is our peer, and so she relates to students. She can go back to her story and say ‘hey, this is why you all need to advocate for reducing people’s access to guns’…”

Young people need less access to guns and more resources to help them manage their emotions responsibly and deal with mental health problems – Ginn Academy

“I learned a lot about gun violence. And I see that we shouldn’t use guns for our problems. We should try to come together and fix the problems because nobody on this earth can’t buy our life back. [We all] need to get help to learn how to just worry about our own selves and stop worrying about other people, stop letting people get you angry. We should all work together to support one another to stop gun violence and stop using guns for our problems.”

“Sometimes, without a mother figure or a father figure or a mentor, you aren’t taught how to handle yourself in hard situations, and then you’re expected to live on your own and come up with rent. Another reason this gun violence is so high, is that these popular rappers teach a lot of people it’s an okay way to deal with problems.”

“Some people don’t think before they do things. They purchase guns to protect themselves, but they don’t know how to use them and then they could take somebody’s life if they get mad.”

Paul Rochford, K-12 Education Reporter

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covers K-12 education. Paul joins us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.