Clergy members call for gun violence to be considered a ‘public health crisis’

Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - “We Can End Gun Violence” was the message from members of the African American Clergy Collective of Tennessee on Wednesday.

The clergy has traveled across the state demanding change from the community and calling for gun violence to be considered a “public health crisis.”

“From January 1, 2016, through November 1, 2019, there were a staggering 4,449 [gun] crimes committed in our region alone,” said Shelby County Commissioner Erika Sugarmon.

Surviving family members of gun violence victims came together to share their stories about how this issue has affected their everyday lives by taking their loved ones.

They are now asking the community to come together and stop killing one another.

“Loss and violence, in our lives is almost normalized. We are desensitized to the tragedies that happen every day,” said Crystal Oceja with Youth Impacted by Gun Violence. “Gun violence is a problem in Memphis, and lawmakers continue to ignore the people.”

One Mid-South pastor and collective committee member agreed, saying it is lawmakers’ policies that have created this issue across the state.

“There are people who pass policies that create the conditions that we are living in,” said Pastor Earle Fisher.

According to doctors at the only level-one trauma center in the Mid-South, Regional One Hospital on average treats four gunshot victims daily.

Dr. Andy Kerwin, chief of trauma at the Regional One Health Elvis Presley Trauma Center, says, “In each of the last two years, we treated 1,400 patients that have been victims of gun violence. If you do the math, that’s about four a day.”

Action News 5 reached out to MPD to get the updated year-to-date numbers on shooting victims who have died in Memphis but has not heard back.

The Shelby County Health Department addresses gun violence through its Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

Visit their website for educational resources on gun violence and firearm safety training with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

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