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Editorial: Life-or-death decisions

Larry Suber is one of the fortunate ones. He’s a former gang-banger who got a second chance at life.
There will be no second chances for Trey Chambers. The 20-year-old man was shot to death Wednesday in Salisbury, and his 19-year-old brother faces involuntary manslaughter charges.
Suber and Trey Chambers are the twin masks of gang culture and its glamorization of guns, drugs and violence. Suber’s story, which he related Saturday during a gang-prevention seminar at Livingstone College, offers hope of survival and transformation. Chambers’ story plunges us into the sordid reality of young lives gone horribly to waste.
Police are still piecing together what happened in the house on West Horah Street where Chambers died. Ostensibly, investigators have said, Trey Chambers was shot accidentally when Bobby Chambers put a handgun ó believed to be unloaded ó to his brother’s head and pulled the trigger while mimicking the actions of a video game. But it would trivialize this death to view it simply as the result of one abysmally bad choice motivated, in some way, by images on a computer screen. Police have said that both brothers were involved in gangs. That, along with the presence of drugs and weapons at the house and their prior brushes with the law, speaks to the malignant forces set in motion long before Wednesday.
Chambers’ death was the culmination of many choices by the victims ó and there is certainly more than one victim here. Regardless of what the judicial system decides about Bobby Chambers’ guilt or punishment, he and other family members will live with the consequences of this slaying for the rest of their lives. And like the 2007 slaying of Treasure Feamster, a child caught in the cross-fire of gang violence, this death has broader implications. Ultimately, with the toll in gang-related crime and lost youth, we’re all in the line of fire.
The title of the seminar at Livingstone College was Better Choices 4 A Better Life, a theme underscored by Suber’s keynote address in which he talked about the steps that led him to join a gang, deal drugs and, eventually, put him in prison. “Life is choice driven,” Suber said.
Obviously, it isn’t enough to say that at-risk youth should make better choices. First, they have to believe there are better options. They need stable home lives and nurturing environments, which are often lacking among those who succumb to gang recruitment. Absent family support, youth desperately need the presence of other adults who care enough to show them that better paths are possible. Those are the messages coming out of the Livingstone seminar as well as a statewide summit on gang violence held in Salisbury last month.
The Livingstone program and earlier summit are just two of many recent anti-gang initiatives undertaken here and across the state. When it comes to stopping gang violence, hands-on intervention is the best strategy. It can make a life-or-death difference, as the stories of Larry Suber and Trey Chambers starkly show.

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