Memphis community members list state gun laws as factors in violent crime

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At least four children became victims of violence this week, including a seven-year-old boy who was shot and killed on the Fourth of July in Klondike.

As with every case of violence, the ultimate blame lies with the person who commits the crime.

But community members and city leaders say there are other factors at play as well, including state gun laws.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland shared figures this week on social media showing the number of guns stolen from cars in Memphis.

In the middle of the chart, you can see the explosion of stolen guns starting in 2015, one year after state lawmakers passed a bill allowing people to keep loaded guns inside their vehicles without a permit.

By 2020, the number had nearly tripled.

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis says many of those stolen guns are used in crimes.

“More than 40 percent of guns used in crimes are stolen from vehicles of law-abiding citizens,” said Davis.

Community members say that 2014 law is just one example of legislation that might’ve seemed good for Tennessee but bad for Memphis.

The latest, they say, is the permitless carry law.

Supporters of permitless carry, including Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, say it protects the Second Amendment rights of citizens to defend themselves.

But Angela Stewart, the grandmother of 7-year-old Kelby Shorty, who was shot and killed on the Fourth of July, says the law is a bad idea.

“I don’t give two cents about it cause now we really finna lose our kids,” said Stewart.

Mary Trice, the founder of Ride of Tears, which works to prevent gun violence, says she too believes permitless carry will lead to more violence.

While most of the Shelby County delegation voted against the law, Trice says Memphis is not on the minds of most other state lawmakers.

“How many white children have gotten killed this year? How many Mexican kids got killed this year? Now how many Black kids got killed this year?” Trice asked. “How many? How many more are you all going to kill? How many of you all are going to keep killing us?”

Trice announced Ride of Tears will hold an emergency ride next Wednesday in light of recent violence.

Police have not said whether the gun used in the death of Shorty was stolen.

They’re still looking for the suspects in that case.

But police are urging gun owners to get training. They’re also urging them to lock up their weapons if they keep them in cars.

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