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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 02:07 GMT
A mother's campaign against guns
Gleen Reid
Gleen Reid wants guns off the streets

Two years after her son was shot dead, Gleen Reid is still trying to cope with the daily reminders of her loss.

"It is like when you are setting the table for a meal," she says.

"You have to remember to put out three plates, instead of four, things like that.

"If you have lost a child, it never leaves you and you never forget. It is impossible to come to terms with it. I still cry."

Her son Corey was 28 when he became a victim of Birmingham's gang warfare.

If there are no guns on the streets, no-one will get killed

Gleen Reid

He was shot dead outside a night club, for reasons she still does not understand.

She is convinced the killer was a member of the Burger Bar Boys, one of the gangs believed to have been involved in the latest shootings.

"They had beaten him up and robbed him, but I still do not know to this day exactly what happened on the night that he was shot."

It seems her son made enemies when he refused to be drawn into the neighbourhood's gang culture.

"The gangs try to recruit people, and if you are not with them, you are against them," says Gleen.

"The police are aware of what is going on, but no-one seems to get locked up."

We have to tell young people to get armed with an education, not a gun

Gleen Reid

The New Year murder of the two teenage girls at a party in Aston brought back painful memories for Gleen.

"My heart goes out to the other families," she says. "I know what they are going through."

Nobody has ever been convicted for the murder of her son, and Gleen says she is still waiting for justice.

But she says she understands why people in the local community are reluctant to name names after witnessing gang violence.

"People are afraid of the gangs and the repercussions if they talk to the police," she says.

"They don't want to lose their lives. But if they knew they would be safe, I think they would come forward and testify."

Prison terms

Gleen Reid believes there is still a long way to go to overcome the history of mistrust of the police in many black communities.

"The local community, the police and the government have got to come up with a solution, or there is no hope," she says.

"There will just be one murder after another. It will just get worse and worse."

People are afraid of the gangs and the repercussions if they talk to the police

Gleen Reid

Gleen was upset when she heard that the five-year prison sentence for carrying a gun would not necessarily be imposed in every case.

"I cried and cried when I heard...I was so mad," she says.

"It should be a minimum sentence of at least ten years. That would make these young people think about spending time in prison. It would mean fewer guns and fewer killings."

She is disappointed that after New Year shootings, which highlighted the problem of gangs and guns, no government ministers have come to the city to talk to local people.

"They just don't seem to care about Birmingham," she says. "We have got a war going on here, and they should deal with that first before telling other people how to run their countries."

Role models

Gleen argues that the government should put more money into projects in Birmingham, to divert young people away from crime and the gang culture.

"Young people have to be given something to look forward to," she says.

"At the moment they have got nothing, and they don't see much of a future. They are just living for today. We have to tell them to get armed with an education, not a gun. That way they can enjoy a prosperous life.

My heart goes out to the other families. I know what they are going through

Gleen Reid

"They need good role models. There are plenty of black people who could be an inspiration to them, but they are not taught about them in school. They must be made to feel they are not second class citizens."

While Gleen is critical of the government and the criminal justice system, she accepts that the local community has to accept a share of the responsibility:

"We have got to counter the gang culture and get young people off the streets. We need the black community to play a part in educating them.

"We have got to help them, push them, and be there for them. We have to show them the way to go.

"We all make mistakes, but the black community should learn from its mistakes. It takes a couple to have a child, but it takes a community to raise a child."

Following the loss of her son, Gleen has become a leading member of a group called Mothers Against Guns. The campaign has spread beyond Birmingham, with members in London, Manchester and Nottingham.

She says their message is a simple one.

"We need to get rid of all guns. If there are no guns on the streets, no-one will get killed."


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