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SAFE Coalition's Robert Dawkins: Consider UNCC Shooting, Rising Homicide Rate In Same Terms

UNCC police and CMPD on campus after shooting
Chris Crews
Niner Times
UNCC police and CMPD on campus after shooting.

Robert Dawkins with SAFE Coalition, a group that deals with gun violence, said the community should weigh the UNC Charlotte shooting in the same terms that it grapples with the city's rising homicide rate. He says the city can't treat one problem without treating the other.  He spoke with WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf early Wednesday about how he hopes the community responds to the shooting.  

Lisa Worf:  Mr. Dawkins, as you heard this what went through your mind yesterday?

Robert Dawkins of SAFE Coalition NC led Tuesday's speakers outside the Government Center.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
FILE: Robert Dawkins, 2018

Robert Dawkins: First, I want to say my prayers go out to all of the students, family and faculty at UNC Charlotte. I'm an alum myself. I attended grad school there in 2012. So it's a very sad day for Charlotte and for our students at UNCC. The first thing that comes to my mind is that whether it's neighbor-on-neighbor violence or if this is random violence, like this looks like it’s going to come out to be, there’s time for people to more than come together, but to work to pass legislation to limit people's access to guns.

Worf: There's still a lot of details that we don't know at this point, but when you're talking about gun legislation what specifically are you thinking about?

Dawkins: There's one piece of legislation that’s commonly referred to as the “Red Flag Law” that I think North Carolina as a state needs to pass. The “Red Flag Law” would allow a judge to take weapons away from anyone that has weapons if family or a close friend sees that they're in emotional distress or they've committed domestic violence or people believe that someone has the ability to hurt themselves or others with a firearm, it would temporarily take away the firearm until the courts have ruled that this person is mentally sound to own one. I know that doesn't mean that it will happen in every situation and every situation can be avoided. But I do believe North Carolina needs to move forward on passing a red flag law legislation.

[Share Your Reactions: UNCC Shooting Attack]

Worf: What questions do you have right now about yesterday's shooting?

Dawkins: I would like to find out more about the suspect. Well, he isn't a suspect now, the defendant. I would like to know what was the reason for him being put off campus because I know he wasn't a student there anymore. Was it something related to violence? Was there a history of this student having violence? I do want to commend the UNC Charlotte police department. From the reports and limited information, we hear that they were on the scene immediately and were able to take the person into custody without anyone else getting hurt. But we would really like to know the situation: Why was he on campus if he wasn't a student? And why was he no longer a student? And did he have a record of violence while he was on campus?

Worf: How would you like to see the community move forward at this point as far as healing, as far as getting answers?

Dawkins: I think that the community should look at this in the same terms that they're looking and grappling with how to get our hands on our rising homicide rate in Charlotte as a whole. And I don't think we can treat one without treating the other. So I think we should put as much emphasis on the 44 murders that we have in Charlotte, as we do on this one particular incident and try to see how we can get our hands on addressing both. Neighborhood violence where people know each other and it's always usually coming down to conflict resolution, in situations like this mass shooter. If their death was either out of hate or if someone went through an emotional or mental crisis, how we can work on all of those things holistically to better keep our community safe

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.