BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Residents near the Jefferson Ave. Tops are all too aware of gun violence that has plagued the community for many years. They are working to come up with solutions to the growing problem.

“This is a matter of life and death,” Sherry Sherrill, special projects facilitator for We Are Women Warriors, said as she opened the dicussion.

We Are Women Warriors began hosting monthly meetings called “No Excuses” in February where they feature panelists who discuss gun violence and the rise in crime. The focus of the meetings is on young people and how they are exposed to this violent behavior. After the shootings at Tops, these meetings now take on greater urgency.

“This new generation of kids they have anxieties, they have issues. they have mental health problems that they are dealing with,” Pastor Tim Newkirk, Senior Pastor at G.Y.C. Ministries, said.

On the heels of the mass shooting at Tops, the organization held their discussion just down the street at the Frank E. Merriweather Branch Library on Jefferson Ave. Faced with a rise in crime locally and across the country, they are trying to hear from community members about what they want to see happen so that they can create a solution to the problem.

“It is high time that an end come to the ridiculous to the absolutely deplorable homicide statistics that are happening in this heavily industrialized, one of the greatest, wealthiest nation’s on the planet,” Sherrill continued.

Violence is something the city of Buffalo has known for decades and some community members say young people now are repeating the violent behavior that has surrounded them.

“Everything that these youth are doing they’ve seen you do; they’ve seen me do; Topaz, [they’ve] seen you do and John, seen y’all did,” Kenny Simmons, Senior Pastor at Cold Spring Bible Chapel, added.

Community leaders say they have seen changes in the way violence takes root now. That calls for a different approach to supporting young people.

“They don’t talk like we talked. You say go outside [and] they say no I’d rather stay in the closet. I’d rather stay in the room,” Pastor Newkirk continued.

“So how are we going to conquer that, right? Four letters: L-o-v-e,” Pastor Simmons said.

As the city continued to grieve, community advocates and leaders are keeping their focus on helping the next generation.

“The problem begins in my house and in your house and in our neighbors house. And if all of we make taking care of our young people and giving them the bright future that they deserve and that we ourselves would wish to inherit, we would all benefit,” Sherrill continued.

These meetings will continue throughout the year. The goal is to draft a community agreement on how to stop gun crime in Buffalo and across the country. Ultimately, they hope to provide these ideas to local, state and federal leaders.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.