ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Nationally, the weekend’s attention was focused on Buffalo and Los Angeles as two hate-motivated men walked into a grocery store and a church respectively and opened fire, killing and injuring senselessly.
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They were, however, just two of the 352 shootings that happened from Massachusetts to Washington that took 137 lives and injured hundreds more, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Orlando’s quest to escape the list ended Monday morning when a 20-year old and two teenagers were among a group that opened fire near downtown, seriously injuring one person.
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The teens’ arrests – one was 17 and the other 16 – raised a few eyebrows of its own, as a streak of violence involving youths continued in Central Florida.
The trend began in early 2021 as the nation grew weary from the pandemic. Anger from relative isolation set in among adults and teenagers alike.
It’s the lingering rage that analysts say is leading to a rise in crime in cities nationwide. Eddie Willis, leader of Stop the Violence and Embrace Orlando, believes it’s contributing to the rash of school fights and teenage shooters that continue to lead headlines.
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“These guys are just acting out, and then here comes to the violence and aggression,” he said. “They just don’t know how to burn it off in the right way.”
Willis spends his days working with at-risk teenagers and attempting to recruit more for the programs his organization offers. He lamented about the lack of opportunities for kids, especially Black males on the west side of town.
He said the teenagers were bored in school and itching to put their minds to work in other ways through internship programs or jobs that would teach them life skills, but few businesses were offering those chances.
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“If they don’t get that job, they feel like they’ve been rejected,” he explained. “That leads to frustration, and then at that point, they pretty much want to give up.”
Willis also said weapons were too easily available to the kids, much more accessible than training opportunities. He called on community leaders to fund additional mental health programs to avert shootings and catch would-be offenders before they could harm others.
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