Memphis residents tell what they want from special session

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The city of Memphis is kind of a rough place.

Sure, it’s the home of Graceland and all that, which is anything but “hood,” but that’s just one part of the city. It seems crime is pretty high there and a lot of people are less than pleased.


Now that the state is pondering a special session to look at gun control–one still shrouded in way too much mystery, if you ask me–folks there are telling lawmakers what they want to see out of the special session.

But it started with lawmakers telling the people what they’ve got in mind for the session

Memphians gathered Tuesday asked for strong gun laws as well as more community support for youth, including mental health resources, extended library hours and opened swimming pools. And, they discussed the challenge of creating effective legislation as a blue and urban city in a state where rural, Republican legislators hold sway in Nashville.

The issue of gun violence was personal to many of those gathered, particularly in a state where guns are the leading cause of death for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“13-year-olds are full of stupid energy, period. … They have nowhere to burn it up,” Downey said. “We don’t have justice systems that are restorative, we only have retributive justice. … We will never be able to arrest our way out of the crime we see, but we can invest our way out of it.”

Dr. Altha Stewart, senior associate dean for community health engagement at the Univeristy of Tennessee Health Science Center, stressed that children “are really not prepared for the world of hurt that we have allowed to be developed and dropped them into with poverty, instability in housing, inadequate access to healthcare, behavior healthcare.”

Currently, there’s no reentry program for youth exiting the juvenile justice system, Stewart said. And, 70% of children in carceral settings have mental illness.


Now, this is interesting to me because it basically seems to suggest that Memphis and its problems with violent crime are pretty much an issue because kids are bored. Maybe not exclusively so, but at least in large part simply because they don’t have anything to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I know bored kids can make really bad decisions. I made more than my fair share back in the day, but that didn’t involve armed robbery or homicide. Property crime? Sure, I can get that. Spray-paint a message on someone’s wall, steal a chair off someone’s porch just because, all of that is still stupid, but I can at least see why someone bored might do that.

I’ve never been so bored that I thought, “You know what would be fun? Shooting some random person. That’ll be a blast!”

Granted, curbing that might prevent them from going further off the straight and narrow path, but it remains to be seen just how much of an impact such things could really have on violent crime.

Now, let’s talk about the gun stuff. Folks in Memphis say they want an end to preemption because then they could pass their own gun control laws. This is a common talking point among urban Democrats, and I get where they’re coming from.

They’re wrong, though.

First, let’s understand that the city of Memphis isn’t able to create felonies. They can pass ordinances, but they’ll be misdemeanors. As a result, anyone who wants to break those laws can do so without risking any real time in jail.


As such, no one should delude themselves into believing that this will have an appreciable impact on the local criminals.

What it will do, though, is jam up tourists who might be unaware of the gun laws specifically in Memphis. It won’t take long before a lot of people decide a virtual tour of Graceland makes more sense for them because the city is rough enough that they don’t want to go if they’re not carrying a firearm, but the local laws are too risky for them to carry one.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

Luckily, it’s one thing for residence to say they want something–including the grab-bag of stuff they’re claiming would mitigate violent crime there–and quite another to see it passed.

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