GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The plea to keep your guns out of sight and in a secure place continued in Grand Rapids Wednesday night.

The National Forum for Black Professional Administrators hosted a discussion about what we can all do to prevent unintentional shootings at the Baxter Community Center.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom, City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi and an advocate for firearm safety and education, Daryle Rostic, are on the panel.

“I think it’s a really important to have this conversation, and I think it’s one that needs to be had but not enough people talk about,” Chief Winstrom said.

During 2022-2023, there were four incidents at Grand Rapids Public School of students bringing guns to its schools.

According to Commissioner Ysasi, the NFBPA started planning the forum in May after two of those incidents involved elementary kids. The guns were confiscated before any tragedy occurred.

GRPS held two school safety forums for parents, teachers and the community following that. It prompted district leaders to ban backpacks for the remainder of the school year.

“I would much rather spend the time and energy investing in teachers than trying to figure out how to buy a bullet proof space to go into the school system,” said Ysasi.

“I think we are fortunate that we are having this conversation around what could have been a very serious situation,” Chief Winstrom said. “If you don’t have that gun in a safe, you’re talking about a real risk of injury, especially to our young people in this community.”

During the discussion, people shared their personal experiences, voiced their concerns and received strategies for becoming responsible gun owners.

“I know how important it is to address the issue of gun safety in our communities, as it impacts all of us,” said United States Representative Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids.

State legislators have taken up the issues in Lansing to promote safe gun storage and prevent gun violence.

Those laws will take effect next year. Ysasi says community members can’t wait until then to make changes. Coming to tonight’s discussion is a way to start.

“It takes the city. It takes our police department. It takes our community. It takes our schools, and it takes parents to make sure we talk about what a gun can do when it’s used safely and what it will do if not used safely or in the hands of somebody who shouldn’t have it,” she said.

“The biggest investment we can have is getting our parents to understand that if their students are struggling, we can get them with a counselor, a mental health therapist, to really deal with some traumatic experience they may have,” said Larry Johnson, GRPS Chief of Staff & Executive Director of Public Safety.

Daryle Rostic, founder of Smart Shooters, offered educational tips for parents and their kids during the forum.

Rostic didn’t know much about firearms while growing up on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. He says the adults he grew up around had misconceptions about it too.

As he grew older, he began to do some research.

“I started to educate myself. When 2020 came, everyone I knew bought a gun and nobody signed up for a single training class, so I was concerned,” he said.

He then began to receive the necessary certifications to become an instructor. Since then, he has described himself as the “go-to” for education about weapons.

“I think education can serve the whole community,” Rostic said.

Rostic just launched free resources for parents to use as a guide when talking to their kids about firearm safety.

You can find that on the Smart Shooters website.

— News 8’s Taylor Morris contributed to this report.