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Mother of two sons killed by guns makes emotional plea for background checks

Updated: May 1, 2013 2:46PM



GARY — Shalonda Ham was speaking about her support for increased background checks and educating teens about the consequences of guns at a Thursday Mayors Against Illegal Guns event when she was overcome with emotion.

Ham lost her two sons — ShaQwone Ham, 19, and Charles Wood Jr., 18 — to gun violence on Mar.ch 17. Two teens — Johnte Crawford, 17, and Donnell D. Wilson, 16 — were charged in the murders.

“It is utterly important to prevent guns from getting in the hands of criminals,” Ham said.

She couldn’t finish her remarks and had to leave the room, but Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Ham’s presence was important.

“None of the things any of us say could be as relevant as a mother who had to bury two sons,” Freeman-Wilson said. “It’s every mother’s nightmare.”

Freeman-Wilson said she has photos of Ham and Wood in her office along with her own daughter.

Freeman-Wilson hosted the event at Gary’s City Hall as part the National Day to Demand Action, which aims to spur legislators to pass meaningful measures to prevent gun violence more than 100 days after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Members of the law enforcement and faith communities talked about the need for everyone to do more to combat the problem.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he’s baffled by the reluctance of politicians to require registrations and background checks for all gun purchases.

“What we just witnessed is so typical of the pain, agony and suffering as a result of gun violence,” Carter said. “I’m not against weapons. My 94-year-old mother has a gun and would use it, but there should be registration and people should be required to get training on how to use a weapon.”

Carter said his office has placed an emphasis on demanding jail time — and not just probation — when it comes to gun crimes.

“We have young people killing other young people, particularly in the black community,” he said.

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram emphasized that shootings are down in the city while homicides are stable.

“There’s an actual cost to gun violence,” Ingram said. “Treating a gunshot wound is about $40,000 per patient, and with fewer shootings there’s also less cost to prosecute the crime.”

Zion Progressive Cathedral Bishop Norman Hairston said it’s time for members to the community to stop standing idly by while young people are killed.

“We must declare war on war,” Hairston said. “We must instruct our people that there is a need for our voices to be heard.”



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