By Stefan Oliva SYRACUSE, NY (NCC NEWS) – Gun violence is a hotly debated and divisive issue. Many people have tried solving the problem, but the solutions put forth haven’t had much success up to now. One Syracuse man has a different approach to the issue. SNUG (a state organization spelling guns backwards) outreach worker Donnell McGrew is treating gun violence as a disease. “It’s nothing normal about this,” he said, referring to gun violence. “It’s not something you should get used to. There’s nothing cool about this.”
Not everyone is on the same page as McGrew when it comes to the topic. “I don’t think this is something that can be treated as a disease in the traditional sense,” said Kevin Brown, a local activist. “You don’t see cystic fibrosis being treated with the same passion.”
Local gun shop owner David Steinberg said something along the same lines. “I don’t think it’s a disease,” he said, referring to gun violence. “I think some of the people with mental illnesses need to be tracked more, but it’s not gun usage or gun ownership that’s actually the problem.”
McGrew has first-hand experience with this issue because he went to prison for roughly three years and 10 months, getting out from Watertown Correctional eight months early on parole, for having a loaded gun. He’s also lost several family members and friends to gun violence. Now he makes it his personal mission to get the people he works with, aged between 13 and 25, away from gun violence and street life. He works with them to get them jobs, so they stay out of trouble, makes sure they go to school and even takes them to the gym if there’s nothing else for them to do.
There’s something he wants them to know about his earlier days. “I’m not denying my past. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it,” McGrew said, “because it makes me the man I am today. I am who I am for a reason. My path was set for a reason.”