LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Gov. Matt Bevin’s highly anticipated plan to combat gun violence largely fell flat Thursday morning during a volatile public meeting at Western Middle School.
Tempers boiled over outside the school after a number of dismayed citizens and religious leaders walked out of the meeting early, fuming over the governor’s so-called “solution” to soaring gun violence – prayer.
The governor recently took to Facebook Live, where he promised a solution to gun violence following the shooting death of 7-year-old Dequante Hobbs of Louisville. The little boy was eating a snack in his kitchen when a stray bullet came through a nearby window, killing him.
Gov. Bevin unveiled his solution during the meeting Thursday morning. The plan calls on groups of volunteers to adopt streets in Louisville’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods, then spend a few nights a week walking the area and praying at each corner.
Those who were critical of Bevin’s proposal questioned whether it was a plan at all, saying they expected the Governor to announce a more tangible solution, like a state-funded initiative.
Pastor Joe Phelps, of Highland Baptist Church, called the governor’s solution a “political ploy.”
“I believe in prayer,” Phelps said. “That’s not the answer here and for him to reduce the problems of violence to getting people to go pray for a block is an embarrassment to Christianity.”
Dr. Frank Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor of Christ Church, said solving Louisville’s crime problem begins with investing additional resources in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“The resources, the education, and the opportunities that are available in the eastern parts of the community need to be brought to West Louisville,” Smith said.
Others, like Cierra Miller, said Bevin’s plan was a step in the right direction.
“He’s trying to get the people to come together. So if we can come together on the same terms then I think a lot would change,” Miller said.
Miller lives with the physical and emotional scars of gun violence every day. Her 16-month-old daughter, Ne’Riah, was fatally shot on their front porch almost three years ago during a drive-by shooting. Miller was also injured in the incident.
“It’s hard for [others] to see what we see because they ain’t got that shoe that we got on. They probably haven’t lost a child, you know? There’s a lot of people out here that lost children, lost mothers, fathers through gun violence,” said Miller, adding that she believes great strides can be made toward promoting nonviolence without money.
“Change will come in time. It will. It always does, but Gov. Bevin, he was right. The change only comes if you have faith. Some people don’t believe that but I do," Miller said.