Young and old joined many ages in between at the most recent Community Walk Against Gun Violence. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

At the time of last Saturday’s latest “Community Walk Against Gun Violence,” 84 shootings had been documented in Shelby County in 2021. And, participants were told, Tennessee’s new no-permit, gun-carry law will create a “wild west” effect.

“There are too many guns on the streets of Memphis,” said a key organizer, Stevie Moore, president/founder of FFUN (Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives), whose mantra is “Stop the Killing.”

Moore said the Black community has been too silent on the issue “This law is not helpful in alleviating shootings in our communities. That’s so crazy to me. Gov. Lee has already signed it, and this bill becomes law on July 1.”

“We should have spoken up and let our voice be heard when the governor was still considering the bill,” said Moore.

The Community Walk Against Gun Violence was a 1.9 mile trek that launched from MLK Prep Academy, 1530 Dellwood. It followed a February walk in Whitehaven. The weekend prior to the most recent walk there were 12 shootings; five died from their injuries. Seven cases remained under investigation.

On Wednesday, April 28, three shootings had occurred in two hours. Moore said gun violence continues in too many neighborhoods.

“I have already been to the sites of three shootings,” said Moore.

“It looks like Memphis and Shelby County are headed for another record-breaking year of killings and accidental shootings,” he said Moore. “We’ve got to pass more laws on the front end before someone fires, not at the back end when a murder is being investigated.”

Participation is great, but marchers must be about something more than just hearing speeches and walking as a show of unity, Moore said.

“We need to change the way we think pertaining to violence. … ‘Black Lives Matter’ have no issue raising an alarm when some police shooting occurs. But when stray bullets are taking the lives of others, we should get just as vocal, just as concerned.”

Moore said in one shooting, African-American males were shooting at each other.

One of the stray bullets killed a four-year-old girl and there was no outcry in the community, said more, calling for “our collective voices” to be heard.

“This child has been killed in her own community, and there is nothing but silence,” said Moore. “It’s like we don’t care about the lives taken by guns, if someone who looks like us is involved.

“We’ve got to stop this  pandemic of violence in our own community.”

A coalition of African-American ministers, spearheaded by Pastor Bill Adkins of Greater Imani Church, The Cathedral of Faith, had a similar message: Black lives matter, even if some of our own people are doing the shooting.

Adkins said the African-American community “must bring in an indictment on itself for this plague of violence.”

Lee signed the permitless carry measure, which was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in March, on April 8, with it set to become law on July 1.

Tennessee now is among 19 states with laws that waive carry-permit restrictions.

“Anyone who is at least 21 and has no felony on their record can get a gun,” said Moore. “More guns will only lead to more killing. People are already getting guns without knowing how to use them. They can’t shoot. That’s why so many innocent people are being killed.”

Community residents are not helpless, Moore said.

“There is something we can do,” said Moore. “If we see something, say something. Many people won’t call in to the police, but they will call me. I have had a tip line for nearly a year. Three murders have been solved, and two drug houses have been shut down. …

“We want to know where we can help, how we can help,” he said. “Much needed resources can be directed to people living in underserved communities. It’s OK to call my tip line if there is fear or mistrust of the police.”

Moore’s tip line number is: 901-417-7361.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender