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'Nothing changes if nothing changes' | Toledo youth advocate calls for accountability after taking gun out of 12-year-old hands

The founder of Young Men and Women for Change, Shawn Mahone Sr., said the boy told him he took his grandpa's gun because he needed it for protection.

TOLEDO, Ohio — An eye-opening sight: a child with a gun.

The founder of Young Men and Women for Change, Shawn Mahone Sr., said the boy told him he took his grandpa's gun because he needed it for protection.

"And the reason why the violence is spiking," Mahone said. "The reason why there's so many issues that's taking place in our community is because, I'm the first one to say, 'nothing changes if nothing changes.'"

Mahone has dedicated his life to working with young kids on the wrong path and helping them change to the right one. 

"And that is a bad place to be: when you're that young and you feel like you need something for protection," he said. "So, it took me about an hour and a half to talk to this young man, to build that trust with that young man."

Mahone said he told the boy he's loved and supported, saying the best decision he made was handing over the gun. 

Mahone explained children need positive reinforcement and parents need help. 

"I'm the one that's getting the calls from parents. The parents are crying out for help. The parents want some type of tough love, the parents want something that will turn their child around," he said. "When the community is being told that there's nothing out there and you know you have something out there, that's where the accountability needs to be held."

He said he tried to get the city involved.

"I actually wrote a proposal for the city of Toledo, and that proposal was called Operation Accountability," Mahone said.

He explained when that didn't take off, Mahone did the only thing he knew how to do: dive further into Young Men and Women for Change to give kids a place to be kids again. 

He said he can't do that though without accountability, which is something we can all work on. 

"If we begin to hold parents accountable, when we start to hold children accountable, those are tangible things that we can do now," he said.

City of Toledo officials said they did receive Mahone's proposal and send well wishes to him and his program. 

WTOL 11 was told the mayor has a broad range of city efforts and programs aimed at reducing violence in Toledo, including the Mayor's Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence and Save our Community.

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