April 17, 2024

"We have the power to change this reality." Youth-led group works to change narrative around gun violence

Members of the youth council for Project Unloaded, a national youth-powered group whose mission is to change the narrative around guns. - Provided by Paige Carter

Members of the youth council for Project Unloaded, a national youth-powered group whose mission is to change the narrative around guns.

Provided by Paige Carter

As more youth in Central Indiana become victims of gun violence, one group hopes to change the narrative around the issue across the country.

WFYI’s Abriana Herron spoke with Paige Carter, an Indiana student and youth council member for Project Unloaded, to learn about the organization’s goals and its impact in the state.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Abriana Herron: Why did you become a youth council member for Project Unloaded, and what is Project Unloaded’s mission?

Paige Carter: Project Unloaded is a gun violence prevention organization that works to save lives by changing America's deadly gun culture. So a lot of people believe this myth that guns can make them safer. And this myth is, you know, driving up gun sales and in turn gun deaths.

So I personally first joined Project Unloaded not only because Project Unloaded is working to end gun violence, and that's something that means a lot to me, but I also really loved that Project Unloaded was recognizing and believing in the power of young people to create this change.

And you know, gun violence has had such a devastating impact on my generation, on young people, and our realities are just in so many different ways surrounded by this cycle of gun violence.

We go to schools, and you know, we think about the what ifs. We hear about shootings at malls and movie theaters. And it's just, our lives are just constantly surrounded by this cycle of violence. And despite the fact that we are so impacted by gun violence, we are almost always left out of conversations about how to tackle this issue.

Herron: And so, the Safer Not Using Guns or the SNUG campaign brings discourse about gun usage to teens on various social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok. How can something like changing the narrative on those platforms help reduce gun violence among youth here in Indiana?

Carter: You know, it's no secret that Indiana is a red state. And with that comes a lot of people who feel very strongly about the idea of gun ownership, and a lot of people who might raise their kids around guns and instill those same beliefs in their kids.

I think we have seen the side effects of this culture with, you know, the number of gun violence incidents and gun deaths across the state. But despite this prevalence of gun culture and Indiana, I still believe that Indiana teens are willing to listen to Project Unloaded’s messages, and they're open to this idea that guns make us less safe.

And so I think, you know, the SNUG campaign is specifically focusing on connecting with teens who haven't made up their minds about guns, gun violence, gun ownership, and they're interested in learning the facts behind gun ownership.

Herron: Recently, seven young people, ages 12 to 16, were injured due to gun violence in downtown Indianapolis. As a young person, why is being a part of an organization like Project Unloaded important?

Carter: It’s so frustrating, and heartbreaking and traumatic to hear about things that are happening to people my age in my state. And it's, you know, every week it's something else. Every week, there's another incident. Every week, there's more gun deaths, and I think that young people are just so specifically tired of this.

We don't want this to be our reality, because we know that we have the power to change this reality. When I hear about incidents like this, it's just so saddening. But it also empowers me to want to work harder at this and it empowers me to want to talk to my peers about this and get those conversations started.

I think that that's something that a lot of people are doing across the state when we hear about things like this.

Herron: Earlier you talked about how Gen Z in general is not a part of these conversations. If you could speak to a local politician about youth gun violence, what would you say to them?

Carter: You can have policy changes, but I think that when you have this push from, you know, society, from people on the ground who are like 'enough is enough,' like I think that's where, you know, we're gonna see the quickest change.

Herron: Thank you so much, Paige.

Carter: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Contact WFYI Morning Edition newscaster and reporter Abriana Herron at aherron@wfyi.org.


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