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Allegheny County rallying to keep guns out of juvenile hands

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — A young woman whose life was changed when her sister was shot and killed is pleading with kids to put down the guns.

Her message comes amid a new survey that found many young people in our area have witnessed or been affected by gun violence.

Now they say more needs to be done to help them and those they care about.

A recent survey conducted by CeaseFirePA Education Fund and The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence asked 400 at-risk youth across Allegheny County, “Do they feel enough is being done to address gun violence in their communities?” An overwhelming 84% said they feel nothing has been done at all.

“I shouldn’t have to be here, as a 17-year-old young woman, I should be worried about college,” said Cierra Guest, a Woodland Hills student who spoke at Wednesday’s address.

Guest lost her older sister, Jasmine Guest, to gun violence last year when she was shot and killed on the Parkway East.

“She was my mentor, my biggest supporter, almost my mom for real,” Guest shared with the audience.

An incoming senior at Woodland HillsGuest is among a growing number of teens and kids impacted by gun violence.

“The results are clear. We are witnessing the mass traumatization of a generation,” said Josh Fleitman, a local advocate with CeaseFirePA.

Data from the survey showed that 57% had lost a loved one to gun violence, nearly half have personally witnessed gun violence and one in five have witnessed gun violence four or more times.

Perhaps the most alarming statistic is that 84% believe nothing is being done to help them deal with trauma.

“I went to seek support from social workers and therapists in the school who are paid to do that job, and I was rejected,” Guest said.

Community leaders said the goal of this survey is to make sure that never happens again and that new laws are put in place to help.

“Hopefully, it brings a laser focus light on what we are dealing with, and hopefully, our legislators will move,” said Tim Stevens, the CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project B-PEP.

Guest said through this survey process she has found her voice, and in the fall, she will launch the “Healing Room” at her school that will offer teens mental health services on-site. To see the full results of the survey click here.

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