Changing attitudes of gun worship in Memphis - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Changing attitudes of gun worship in Memphis

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - Every night there are neighborhoods throughout Memphis where darkness ushers in the sounds of screams, angry words, gun shots and fear.

We may not remember the street names or the specific locations, the circumstances of how the tragedies took place can fade as quickly as the ink on a wet newspaper. Sadly even the identities of dozens of young lives cut short by stray bullets can become relegated by time to a dim montage of tiny faces.

But, in the here and now, there is one fact of life in inner city Memphis that cannot be forgotten, ignored or neglected. The frightening frequency of gun-related violence and death in parts of our community has reached epidemic proportions.

"You never know when they going to get to shooting," said one North Memphis resident. "You never know when. Ain't no bullet got no name."

"When you live around a lot of gunshots, you just expect that's just a normal day," said Wayne Bolden, Orange Mound resident. "If you don't hear no kids hollering or nothing like that. It's just like coming outside. Hear some gunshots. If it's close by you go in the house. If it ain't you going the other way."

"It's leaking like a sieve around here," added Mayor A C Wharton. "You've heard of 50 ways to leave your lover. There's 150 ways to get a gun in this town."

Put a gun in the hands of a wayward youth or a man wrestling with issues of unemployment and employment, and consequences can usually result in another violent crime statistic.

Where do we begin to find a solution? A task made even more daunting after this year's Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation loosening restrictions on gun ownership and in the process preempted municipal authorization of any serious regulations of firearms or ammunition.

The new laws are an apparent reaffirmation of the well-worn philosophy of gun lobbyists that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." what's left for urban communities in Tennessee is the conundrum of trying to find methods to protect ourselves against the law.

"We're working with the D.A.'s office, police department, to ask for higher bail in some of the gun crimes," Mayor Wharton said. "At least to send the signal the illegal possession of firearms on our streets is not a trivial matter. The best thing we can do is what we're doing with our Gun Down programs is to try to teach, to counsel, particularly the teenagers, that adolescent 17-24 years of age group that we're focusing on in Memphis Gun Down."

The recent shooting of a 10-year old, admittedly by her 13-year old brother, serves as a cautionary tale to the reality which fuels the city's gun violence especially among youth. As he told police, his sister allegedly dared him to shoot her.

Mayor Wharton, who as a defense lawyer has legally represented youthful gun offenders in the past, believes it is the false and delusional worship of a gun that's too often viewed in the inner city as a menacing "great equalizer" for those afraid of real world pressures or devoid of self-confidence at a young age.

"It takes a four-foot kid, a five-foot kid, and he becomes a giant when he's packing," Mayor Wharton said. "I know that from having defended so many. It cures all ills once they get that, all the teaching goes out the window. Cause, once you have this in your hand, you're smarter than your teacher. You're smarter than your preacher. You're smarter than your, mama. Once you get this that solves everything."

But, as we've continuously seen in Memphis, a bullet coming out of a gun is no answer and only creates more problems than it will ever begin to solve.

"That there's another way to resolve your differences other than, 'Hey I got to do this,'" the mayor said.

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