YOU COULD LOOK at the high number of people who are shot in Philadelphia every year and decide that the situation is hopeless, that the streets in certain pockets of the city will always run red with blood.

You'd be wrong, according to some who participated earlier this month in a two-day national conference on violence prevention and behavior health hosted by Mothers in Charge at the Sheraton hotel in Center City.

The conference, which also marked Mothers in Charge's 10th anniversary, was held May 6 and 7. It allowed for a wide-ranging discussion on the causes, cost and possible solutions to gun violence, both in Philly and in other cities across the country.

"One message that I took away is that gun violence cannot be normalized nor accepted," said Arthur Evans, the commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, who was among city officials who took part in the conference.

"I think what happens in some of our communities is that people become fatalistic. They believe is normal and something that they can't do anything about."

Evans said the Department of Behavioral Health has trained crisis-response teams that visit communities in the wake of shootings and provide information and support.

"There's a lot of research now that shows when people have experienced those kinds of trauma, it relates to health problems, developmental problems for kids, and leads to a cycle of violence," he said.

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, the founder and executive director of Mothers in Charge, said she hoped the conference would serve as a jumping-off point for a national violence-prevention movement.

One problem that Johnson-Speight said seems worse now than when she founded the nonprofit is how easy it is for youths to get their hands on a firearm.

"The availability of guns for young people is a major issue," Johnson-Speight said. "When we talk to young people in the sixth or seventh grade, they can tell you where to get a gun. It's such a common instrument in their lives."

Former Daily News photographer Jim MacMillan, founder of the nonprofit Gun Crisis Reporting Project, also attended the conference.

He noted that plenty of proven gun violence prevention strategies - like Philadelphia CeaseFire, which uses community members to counsel at-risk young people in North Philly's 22nd Police District - are out there.

"There are a lot of movements, but they need more support and more money," MacMillan said. "We're lacking leadership and a comprehensive citywide strategy."

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: For the rest of our "Under the Gun" series, including interactive maps and graphics, go to PhillyDailyNews.com/Guns.

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