RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Friday marked one year since a gun safety law was signed after the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre, it was also a day to bridge gaps through basketball at the Boys and Girls Club in Raleigh.
"We care for them. We love them. We support them," said Capt. Brian Bowers with the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
The event in Wake County comes as President Joe Biden spoke at the National Safer Communities Summit in Connecticut on Friday, where he pushed for tougher gun restrictions.
"Prayers are fine. They're important ... but it's not going to stop it," Biden said. "You have to take action. You have to move. You have to do something."
Young people are in the spotlight, especially after the pandemic's toll on some of their mental health.
"They have trouble having conversations with each other," Raleigh Boys Club director Shantelle Britt said. "They have socially and emotionally they have a hard time recognizing somebody else's feelings."
Jeffrey Swanson, who is a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, said mental health intersects with gun violence, particularly when it comes to death by suicide. However, there's a public stigma when it comes to mental health and violence and shootings.
"There are lots of people with mental illnesses, but the vast majority of them are not violent," Swanson said. "There's so many other factors that really are driving the gun violence rate, the gun homicide rate, which went up 36% in 2020, and it has a lot to do with easy access to guns."
Swanson said the issue of gun violence is not a "one-thing problem," nor is it a "one-thing solution," but we are making progress both at the state and federal levels.
"We need to realize that we live in a country where guns exist," Swanson said. "We need to have a cultural change in our thinking about safety. So one thing would be safe storage and the governor's initiative on safe storage of firearms is an important step."
Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens. For Bowers, communication is crucial in the community.
"You don't know what the juvenile was going through at home or away from school," Bowers said. "That kind of spearheads and brings home problems with mental health. We got to keep working. Everybody's got to become involved to help with our youth."