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'We truly care' | Hampton Roads Black Caucus member uses past experience to try to help reduce gun violence among teens

The Hampton Roads Black Caucus hosted a 'Gun Buy Back' event where people traded in their firearms for gift cards. Organizers say even more needs to be done.

NORFOLK, Va. — Leaders of the Hampton Roads Black Caucus hosted its first-ever 'Gun Buy Back' event on Saturday, December 18. Organizers say it's a start to a much bigger effort they plan to push throughout Hampton Roads.

Joel Jones serves on the Executive Board for the Hampton Roads Black Caucus. However, decades before his time with the organization, Jones says he used to be involved in gun violence as a young teen.

"I'm a former gang member, and I want to see these kids make different choices," said Jones.

Now a Navy veteran and a youth leader, he says it hurts to see the gun violence, especially following the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy in Norfolk over the weekend.

"From my experience, often times it's the lack of a father in a home, because I knew I never grew up with my father, and I wish I knew a lot of things that fathers should teach sons," said Jones.

Jones says he wants to use his own experience to show teens in the area  that there is another choice.

"Often times, the gun violence really relates to the lack of education, lack of knowledge on firearms," Jones said, who is also a member of a nearby gun club where trainers show how to responsibly handle a firearm. 

Jones says they collected dozens of different guns out of neighborhoods during their Gun Buy Back event. He says it's just the start to the real effort they want to make, which is creating an open dialogue with younger people.

"Even if you know you're not supposed to have that firearm, talk to me. We're not going to get you in trouble or turn you in," Jones said. "Just let me know if that is something that you have and you're not comfortable bringing it in at that moment, come talk to me."

Jones says they plan to work with city council members and non-profits to meet more people across Hampton Roads. He says in addition to better funding, he wants the community to get together and take the time to talk to the teens in the area. 

"We want that time, so we can show these kids that we care," he said.

Leaders with the Hampton Roads Black Caucus say they collected more than 30 guns of all different kinds. They say the people who turned in a firearm ranged between ages 18 and 35. 

Jones says they plan to expand this event to all seven cities and will be going to Norfolk next. 

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