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Champaign County community leaders offer more than thoughts and prayers

Reggie Daniels pays his respects at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on June 9, 2022, honoring the two teachers and 19 students killed in the shooting at the school on May 24.

CHAMPAIGN — There have been more than 260 mass shootings in the US so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Two Champaign community leaders are offering more than thoughts and prayers.

Rev. Terrance L. Thomas is a pastor at Bethel AME Church in Champaign. He rejects blaming the current gun violence crisis on “mental health.”

Thomas said the crisis speaks to the extent of white supremacy in the US. He cites white teenagers as the perpetrators of attacks in places, like Buffalo and Charleston.

He’s worried that legislators want to arm teachers when schools are consistently underfunded.

“We don’t provide schools with books and resources, but we wanna provide teachers with guns,” Thomas said. “If we also look at the anti-Blackness of teachers…do we want teachers, who barely know how to handle aggressive Black children to handle weapons?”

Thomas called the thoughts and prayers of politicians “low hanging fruit.”

“You gotta do more than that,” Thomas said. “So you should be praying for discernment, you should be praying for the strength to act, you should be praying for solutions, not just ‘oh, I’m sorry your baby got murdered,’ right, so prayer with a purpose is my faith tradition.”

Bethel AME Church is hosting an interfaith prayer service for gun violence victims. It will take place at 6 pm on June 17th.

Troy Daniels, the new Parkland College police chief, said his department is reevaluating its equipment, training, and procedures — especially after the shooting that killed 19 elementary school students in Texas.

He supported better school security on campus. But he favored proposals at the national level, such as red-flag laws and raising the required age to buy a semi-automatic weapon.

However, Daniels said the “devil is in the details.”

“But when you look at some of the things they’re talking about, you’d believe that it would certainly help in certain circumstances,” Daniels said. “Now, there’s almost no way to completely eliminate the threat of something like this, but we’re talking about minimizing.”

According to Daniels, the Parkland police department hasn’t received any recent safety complaints from faculty, students, or parents.

Picture of Harrison Malkin

Harrison Malkin

Harrison Malkin is a politics reporter at Illinois Public Media. He's focusing on elections across the state, particularly the 13th and 15th congressional districts and the gubernatorial race. Malkin studied Politics and Communications at Ithaca College, where he was a nightly newscaster and reporter for WICB. From 2020 to 2021, he was a reporting fellow at the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College. You can send a tip, recommendation, or note to hmalkin@illinois.edu.

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