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CHARLESTON, SC -
With guns seemingly falling in the wrong hands of the Lowcountry's youth, all too often these days, local community leaders say they are dedicated to making a change.
It's been a weekend of teenagers arrested on gun charges. Two incidents surrounding the Sertoma Classic football games ended with two teens behind bars.
Co-founder of “The Coalition – People United to Take Back Our Community,” Thomas Dixon, said, "We got to say enough is enough! Now is the time! Enough is enough!"
Representatives from The Coalition say the recent string of violence will only get worse as the teenagers grow up. To combat the issue now, The Coalition plans on reaching out to local and state politicians to make stiffer penalties for someone found with an illegal gun. Dixon explained, "I truly believe anyone in their right mind who thinks twice about their future on the streets will make the right choice not to pick up a firearm, even if it's just, ‘Hey, hold this for me?' Nope! I need to take it to club. No, I don't think so! Because if I get stopped anywhere along the way, I'm going to prison for 5 years."
Coalition officials say a federal program started in Richmond, Virgina in 1997 named "Project Exile" shifted the prosecution of illegal gun possession offenses to federal court, where they carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison.
Dixon, says after the program was adopted, homicides from illegal firearms dropped by 41% in the first 10 months.
Dixon thinks if Charleston enacts a similar law, crimes like the ones on Friday night could be avoided.
Community leaders say the incidents that happened after the Sertoma Classic are a wake-up call for parents and teenagers here in the low country.
Coalition members say education is key. Dixon says that by educating the youth, there will be more open communication and dialogue between community members and police.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Frey Shutterstock