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Former Sen. Graham: Don't Focus On Shooter, Focus On Healing

Malcolm Graham
Jessa O'Connor
Malcolm Graham

Former state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte says in the wake of Tuesday's fatal killings at UNC Charlotte,  the community should focus on the families of those who were killed, and on those recovering from injuries. In an interview with WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf, Graham called on people to focus not on the shooter, but "on the psyche of a of a campus that just went through a horrible ordeal and come together as a community."  Listen or read the full interview here. 

WORF:  Charlotte is grappling with last night's tragic events on UNC Charlotte's campus. Two people are dead and four others are injured. We're still learning the identities of those victims. UNC Charlotte's student-run newspaper, The Niner Times, has identified one of those wounded as student, Drew Pescaro, a sportswriter for the paper. The paper said in a tweet Pescaro is out of surgery and is stable. Police have the suspected shooter in custody, they say. We'll have more on that in 15 minutes. Right now former state senator and city councilman Malcolm Graham joins us. His sister Cynthia Hurd was killed in the 2015 shooting at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. Graham represented the University area for 16 years. Thanks for joining us Mr. Graham.

GRAHAM:  Good morning and thank you for having me.

WORF: As soon as you heard you went straight to the campus yesterday and stayed there for several hours. What were you hearing from people?

[Share Your Reactions: UNCC Shooting Attack]

GRAHAM: Well first of all I just want to send my prayers to the University City family. As you indicated I represented the area for for 16 years. I live about less than 10 minutes from campus and University City is the fabric of my home life. And so I wanted to go out there yesterday to show my support for the University City family, for the students, the victims, those who were injured and those who were traumatized by witnessing the shooting. I wanted to be there as a as a neighbor, certainly wanted to be there as a community leader.

People were shocked of course but not surprised. We've seen this in our country before. Whether we're talking about Charleston or Orlando or Parkland, Florida, or Sutherland, Texas, or Pittsburgh six months ago. Just last weekend in a suburb of San Diego. The proliferation of mass shooting is commonplace now in our country. So common that the national media cable channels really didn't even cover the shooting last night. They have become so normal that this is happening in America and people were saying that now Charlotte joins that list.

WORF:  And what went through your mind as you were learning about this last night hearing about another shooting in our own backyard?

GRAHAM: Well I was preparing to make a trip to Charleston today, I'm en route to Charleston right now, to the Cynthia Graham Hurd Library for an event there this morning, sponsored by the Carolina Panthers and Scholastic. What went through my mind is here's two more families now who will be in great, great pain for the loss of loved ones. A university will write this in their history books as a dark day and a chapter of the life of this grand university. And this community will struggle with it. But it's a problem that we've been dealing with before, the proliferation of a gun. We don't know the motive for the shooting - that will come out later. But we do know that yet again in a public space, a university setting or a church or a movie theater or a concert or a nightclub, people are being killed in massive um mass shootings in public space. And the tools of choice are guns.

WORF: So what do you see as a way forward at this point? 

GRAHAM:  Well, I wish I can be encouraged to say that there is the way forward. We have to, certainly the city council locally in Charlotte in the mayor's hands are tied. They don't deal with gun laws. And even if they wanted to do something, the state General Assembly controlled by Republicans would give them a swift kick in the butt. They won't get any help from the federal government legislators because many of those are bought and sold by the NRA.

And so we will add our name to the list I just articulated earlier and we'll get thoughts and prayers from around the country, from lawmakers, this too shall pass, and unfortunately Lisa we'll be on the phone maybe four weeks, four months, a year from now talking about another incident in another city because we have no fortitude, no courage to deal with the elephant in our country which is the proliferation of guns, no common sense gun laws to police this and we just kind of accept this as normal in our country.

Hopefully through our foundation, the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation for Reading and Civic Engagement, we can bring some attention to these type of shootings, attention to hate crimes, attention to military-style assault weapons that are being used to kill people in our community who are simply in a public space exercising their right and we have rights too, to life liberty and happiness. And unfortunately that was taken away last night in Charlotte on a college campus that life, that liberty was taken away but by individual for two individuals.

WORF: And just briefly as someone who's familiar with at least trying to heal what kind of advice do you have for this community right now.

GRAHAM: Well I think we all need to take a pause and I think we ought to don't dwell on the shooter. He is the justice system will take care of him but focus on the families that lost loved ones. Focus on those individuals who are trying to heal the injuries. Focus on the psyche of a of a campus that just went through a horrible ordeal and come together as a community that's there too.

WORF: And we have to go now. But thank you very much. That's former State Senator Malcolm Graham.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.