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Columbus plagued by teen shootings

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — On average, a teen in Ohio's capital city is a victim of gun violence every day.

The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/17zoBMu ) that for last year, state records show more than 400 cases of Columbus residents under age 20 being shot, robbed, kidnapped or threatened with a gun. Columbus police statistics show that half of the offenses were committed by other teens.

Dispatch interviews with youths found that guns are part of the fabric of some neighborhoods. In some, nearly everyone knows someone who has been killed by a gun. The sound of gunshots is common, as is the sight of guns tucked into waistbands.

"It's expensive to let this problem just continue to go on and on," said Deanna Wilkinson, an Ohio State University professor who has studied youth violence. "Maybe you don't have to drive through this neighborhood or know any of these kids personally, but you're paying for societal neglect of a problem."

The violence is "a continuous cycle," said Cecil Ahad, the president of Men for the Movement, a youth advocacy and mentoring group. "These young people think they're in a war ... We're in a war just like Iraq and Afghanistan."

The violence is most frequent in areas of the city with issues such as poverty and vacant housing.

Young people across the state are at risk of gun crime, but it's particularly a problem in its biggest cities. Statewide, 2,355 teens were victims of a gun crime last year.

The Dispatch reports that Cleveland has the highest rate at 97 gun incidents for every 10,000 youths. Cincinnati was second at 95 per 10,000, followed by Toledo at 67 and Columbus at 39.

With guns readily available in some neighborhoods, youths often use them to settle petty conflicts or to assert their manhood.

"They're trying to show off," said Lee-Divine McCrae, 16, shot in the leg during a fight outside a high school in March. "They don't want anyone saying they're weak, they're lame."

People like Ahad who trying to deal with the problem say the young people grow up in a culture of guns and are traumatized at an early age from the violence around them.

"A lot of these kids are numb," Ahad said.

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