SYRACUSE — A gun violence-themed town hall meeting held by Democratic congressional hopeful Roger Misso turned into a listening session for the candidate.
Misso, D-Syracuse, started the hour-long forum Wednesday night by outlining his five-point plan to reduce gun violence. He supports universal background checks, allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence, closing gun purchasing loopholes, restoring the federal assault weapons ban and mandating national firearms licensing.
The crowd of nearly 30 people appeared to agree with those policy proposals, but think more needs to be done to address the root cause of crime and gun violence.
Speaking before the question-and-answer period, Cliff Ryan — founder of OG's Against Gun Violence — said he's prevented 42 shootings over a four-year period in the city of Syracuse. That's a product of his presence in city, especially in communities of color.
"The youth are crying out and they need someone with boots on the ground that looks like them, going into the communities and reaching out," he said. "That's very, very important."
After briefly sharing details about growing up in Wayne County and serving in the U.S. Navy, Misso faced questions about how he plans to engage the community. The attendee who quizzed him about how active a role he would play said his presence shouldn't be limited to when there's shootings and other tragedies in the city.
Misso responded with his mantra — "Show up and stick around." He now lives in Syracuse and has been to parts of the city where residents tell him they've never seen a candidate or elected official.
"If you're going to represent people, you ought to walk the block where they live and show up where they live," Misso said.
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The setting of the town hall — White Branch Library — is located near the scene of a recent shooting. Some in the crowd noted there is drug activity not far from the library.
The library also served as a symbol of the change many feel needs to happen. As children used computers and worked on school assignments a floor below, adults were upstairs telling Misso that poverty is the root cause of Syracuse's gun violence problem.
One of the main points made by multiple people in the audience is they are more concerned about economic issues than who's in government at the moment. Syracuse ranks as one of the poorest cities in the U.S.
Misso said he can relate because he grew up in Red Creek, one of the poorest villages in the district. He recalls not seeing his elected officials around.
"People here feel like what is government? It's not a thing they feel a part of," he said.
He admitted that he didn't have an answer for addressing the systemic poverty that exists. There isn't a silver bullet for the problem, he said.
However, he reiterated his commitment to be present in the community, listen and focus on solving the problems that have lasted generations.
"Do not let myself off the hook," Misso told the crowd. "You will see me — and I will see you."