JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A church opened its doors on Saturday to try and help the fight against gun violence in Jacksonville.
Pastor Virgil Jones Jr. opened his Philippian Community Church on New Kings Road to try and start a dialog on gun violence by inviting police, community leaders and citizens to a discussion. The fact that only a few dozen people attended the discussion didn't discourage Jones.
"Preachers, we’re definitely that middle man that has to instill in the community that it’s alright to turn in information, it’s alright to 'snitch' in order to get information out, to get some criminals behind bars," Jones said.
"It’s getting the people to come out to it."
Those who did attend said they were tired of turning on the news each night and hearing about another person killed by a gun.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith was among those on the panel discussing ways to combat the shootings plaguing the city. He said these meetings are a good first step to fight gun violence, to help community members getting to know and trust the police.
"It opens up a line of communication with city officials and police, where they can inform them how they can contact theme," Smith said. "(It) also open up communications with community people. In some cases, they know who was involved."
Jones said the church plans to hold panel discussions like these quarterly, and they will advertise any future meetings at PhilippianFL.org.