BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo has been plagued with spontaneous violence carried out using illegal weapons.
Buffalo Police said shootings with injuries up 71% from 2020, and felony gun arrests are up almost 50% compared to last year.
"We have people shooting now that never shot before. We have people carrying guns now that never carried guns before," Pastor James Giles, president, and CEO of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, said, "Out of 22 people, I have 19 of them raising their hands, saying I can go get a gun. We're talking about 14 to 19 years old. That's a dangerous sign."
Pastor Kenneth Simmons, old Spring Bible Church and Mad Dads of Buffalo, said these guns are being brought in from states like Ohio and West Virginia.
"They're not buying them from Dick's Sporting Goods. They're not stealing them from their grandmother. They're not breaking into people's houses stealing them. There are straw buyers, and there are laws that protect gun manufacturers. That's why we see so many guns in the street. That's why we see so many shootings because they're accessible," Pastor Simmons said.
Pastor Simmons said kids and teens get guns for protection.
"There's a lot of kids on the Eastside, west side, south side, north side of buffalo that are just out there fending for themselves. They're angry. They didn't ask to be put here. They didn't ask to be the child of an unwed mother. They didn't ask to grow up in an area that suffers from poverty," Pastor Simmons said.
It's the same level of protection members of Mad Dads of Buffalo wanted when they were teens back in the 1990s. The early 1990s were Buffalo's most violent years, and the City is tracking to top those years now.
John Smith spent almost 28 years in prison for a crime committed in the 90s. He said he started carrying a weapon back then because he felt he had no one to protect him.
"When I went from foster home to foster home, who was going to protect me then? When we were to the point, we were damn near drinking our own urine because we had nothing to drink; who protected you then? Where was the protection when you came out here, and the street lights were coming on, and people were going in the house, but you weren't?" Smith said.
Smith said kids carrying weapons now are just as broken as he was as a teen.
"When you say broken, it's beyond broken. You got a 12-year-old dude saying he wants to be alive," Smith said.
Decades later, some men responsible for record levels of violence in the 1990s have been released from prison and now are doing everything they can to prevent teens from going down the same path.
"It's why I relate. I was that kid," Gabriel Williams, a member of Mad Dads of Buffalo, said.
Lamarr Scott was let out of prison in May after serving more than 20 years. He said the flow of guns into the Queen City would never stop, so he's working to stop teens from pulling the trigger.
"By letting them know their lives are worth living and other individuals' lives are worth saving," Scott said.
"We're the last line of defense. When it comes down to saving these kids. If people can't see that, then I don't know what you're looking at," Smith said.
Mad Dads (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) was founded in the 1990s by Dwayne Ferguson.
Olivia Proia with WKBW first reported this story.