Lawmakers, activists and police talk gun violence

By Gregory{}

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Local leaders say gun violence is not just a North Charleston problem, it's a Lowcountry problem getting worse.

Just days after the 11th murder in North Charleston a group of lawmakers, community activists and police chiefs met to talk about curbing gun violence.

"Really being tough on the illegal use and possession of handguns," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

Gun violence is an issue that hits home for North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.

"I've been shot at. Me and my wife have been shot at three times," said Summey.

Summey believes the person who shot at him 10 years ago got the gun illegally.

Those who attended the meeting are trying to figure out how to get those illegal weapons off the streets.

"This is such a multifaceted issue," said Mitch Lucas with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. "Where are they coming from? Well, they are stolen. They are being bought illegally, and they are being brought in from other states."

North Charleston Assistant Police Chief Reggie Burgess says the problem is a gang life mentality.

"These young men, they had it in their minds for a long period of time to be what they wanted to be. The thug life, the gangsta life is what they chose," said Burgess.

Summey says that lifestyle deserves harsher punishment.

"I would think it should be a minimum sentence of two years if you are caught with an illegal weapon, and a minimum of five years if you are using it in a crime activity," said Mayor Summey.

Elder James Johnson organized the meeting. He says they're not going to get all the answers the first time around but at least it's a start.

"If we don't do something about the murders and the killing in these counties it's not going to stop," said Johnson.

Johnson says Tuesday's meeting is the first of three.

The next two meetings will be spread out over the next two months with local pastors and businessmen.