Memphis mayoral candidates speak on Downtown shooting at Daily Memphian, WKNO debate

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:13 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Candidates vying to be the next mayor of Memphis debated why they’re the best person for the job Tuesday night.

Five of the candidates wanting your vote laid out their plans for economic development, public safety and more.

The debate hosted by The Daily Memphian and WKNO had no studio audience because of a lack of space.

The candidates were also asked about the shooting that injured eight people Downtown over the weekend and about public safety during the debate and by Action News 5.

Five of the 17 candidates vying for the city’s top job participated: Tennessee House Minority Leader Karen Camper, businessman J.W. Gibson, Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board member Michelle McKissack, former Memphis NAACP President Van Turner, and Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young.

Gibson says he supports local efforts by city council for gun reforms.

He says he wants to call for a crime summit within his first 100 days in office.

“I couldn’t believe it was actually happening, but it talks to the state of the climate here in Memphis,” said Gibson. “It speaks to the need of us to have proper leadership. Not only in the MPD, but also within our community. This is not a MPD problem alone. We need the support and the involvement of the community as a whole.”

McKissack says she wants a safety perimeter Downtown with officers on each corner, and wants more collaboration between the city, county offices and school system.

“I could not believe what I was watching,” said McKissack. “A mass shooting took place in Downtown Memphis, overnight, over the weekend, it just almost didn’t get the level of coverage I would’ve thought and would’ve expected. Maybe because it happened in the early morning hours, but as everyone here in Memphis, enough is enough. We’ve got to do something about this. It has to stop.”

Camper would like to see a greater focus on mental health when addressing gun violence.

“We have got to do something different to attack crime in this city,” said Camper. “We know Memphis is crime-ridden, if you will, and it’s nothing that’s different than anywhere else, but we’ve got to come up with new strategies. We’ve got to come up with a whole public safety plan in order to reduce crime in this city.”

Turner has three points when it comes to addressing Downtown crime and gun violence:

“I believe what we do is we crack down on the cruising,” said Turner. “We advocate at the Tennessee legislature for sensible gun laws and we again focus on prevention and intervention. As far as giving our youth something to do, making sure they have all the services they need, and I think if we do that, we can look at the plan for what’s happening now but also plan for the future as reducing crime.”

Young says plans are in the works to address crime Downtown and wants to work with Nashville on common-sense gun laws.

”It was heartbreaking, it was heartbreaking to see that type of lawlessness taking place in our Downtown,” said Young. “I’ve since had conversations with Chief Davis and will be meeting with some of the Beale Street business owners and just having some conversations around things we can do moving forward to prevent that type of activity from taking place in the future.”

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton declined to attend the debate.

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner pulled out of participating earlier Tuesday evening.

Election Day is October 5.

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