COLUMBIA, MO - With gun violence becoming a near nightly event in Columbia over past few days, some citizens are making their voices heard.
The Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence met at City Hall Wednesday night for its regularly scheduled meeting. That meeting was supposed to start at 5:30, but there weren't enough task force members to even have a quorum. Shortly after 6 o'clock, Robin Acrees grew tired of waiting for the public comment period of the meeting that hadn't even started and began to walk out of the meeting room. Before leaving she told task force members that she thought this was going to be an important meeting where she could come talk about "all these shootings around town." The community organizer says she's fed up with the recent violence in Columbia, as well as, people accepting near-nightly gunfire as status quo.
Acrees' concerns were echoed by wounded Retired Army Sergeant Vanek Star. He asked the task force how it's dealing with the violence in a way a combat veteran would truly understand by asking, "What your, as we would say in the military, battle plan?"
Council Members Michael Trapp and Laura Nauser, and the rest of the task force listened to the concerns, but offered few solutions at the gathering. At least four members who did come out for the meeting went on record specifically rebuking the members who were absent or late. They say they have a commitment now, more than ever, to find solutions to the city's violence.
All the task force members agree that the responsibility is mainly in the hands of the people who live in the communities affected by the violence. Task Force member Paul Prevo said, "I know summer's a very busy time of year for people in the community, but especially with this recent string of violence I thought there'd be a few more people here to see what the task force is doing."
The next scheduled meeting for the Task Force on Community Violence is set for July 23rd. The task force is expected to present it's findings and recommendations to the Columbia City Council by November.