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Active-shooter scare prompts local calls to do something

Following recent gun-related incidents, including a shooting on South Highland Tuesday (May 2), the Memphis City Council may be ready to explore ordinances to ban assault weapons and permitless carry within city limits. 

Councilmember Jeff Warren suggested the ordinances Tuesday during council meetings. Warren, a physician, said that language on the ordinances is being crafted.

If the ordinances were to pass, they potentially would put the council at loggerheads with the Tennessee legislature, which has enacted some of the loosest gun-carry laws in the nation, such as permit-less carry.

Councilman Jeff Warren

Calling gun violence, a “public health crisis,” Warren said the ordinances would provide “reasonable ways” to decrease firearm-related incidents in Memphis.

“One of the things that we would hope to do is ban automatic weapons, to ban open carry and make sure people who don’t have a permit to carry guns don’t have guns on their person,” Warren told local news outlets.

The impetus for the measures came earlier in the day, while committee meetings were in session, after the FOX13 News station was fired upon. The suspect then holed up in a nearby restaurant for hours until surrendering to police.

“We’ve got a state government that is not providing us safety and causing us a public health crisis by the laws that they have. What we would have to do is litigate for the failure of the state legislature to provide a safe environment for our citizens. Things that are reasonable and make sense in … rural counties don’t make sense in urban environments,” said Warren.

He was joined by Councilmember Chase Carlisle, who likened open carry to a “marketing campaign.” After saying “repealing” permitless carrying would be a “good start,” he called on the General Assembly to tighten gun control legislation. 

Last month, Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order to strengthen background checks on gun purchases. He also called on the legislature to pass an order-of-protection law that would prevent people who are a danger to themselves, or others, from buying firearms.

“The city is sick and tired of gun violence and empty rhetoric,” Carlisle said.

On April 25, a report from the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission reflected a 7.7 percent rise in violent crime in the first quarter of 2023. A 35 percent increase in homicides and a 5.9 percent increase in aggravated assaults are the main drivers. 

In the Fox 13 shooting incident, Jarrad Nathan, 26, allegedly fired at the television station at 485 S. Highland Ave. One bullet hit the front glass door and a desk.

He then headed south, where he entered Ubees Restaurant at 521 S. Highland. After speaking with the Memphis Police Department crisis negotiators, he was taken into custody around 1:30 p.m.

During the shooting and standoff, a large area around Highland and the University of Memphis remained on lockdown. 

Carlisle’s children attend a school affected by the standoff.

No one was injured during the incident. Nathan is currently undergoing a mental health evaluation.

“He wanted to meet with media. He had a message to send out,” said MPD Deputy Chief Stephen Chandler.

At a Memphis Branch NAACP press conference on Wednesday, President Van Turner Jr. said the inaction by state legislators “has jeopardized, and could potentially jeopardize, many more lives to come.”

A candidate for mayor, Turner pushed for a special July legislative on gun reform. He also advocated for efforts to address mental health.

On Sunday, April 30, two people were shot in separate incidents. 

A shooting occurred at Beale St. at 3:15 p.m. that left two injured. Archie Mays, 32, was arrested on two counts of aggravated assault. The bloodshed began over an argument with a souvenir cart worker.

About 7:15 p.m. Sunday, an off-duty police officer exchanged gunfire with a suspected car burglar outside of Huey’s restaurant at 4782 Poplar Ave. in East Memphis.

He witnessed several suspects breaking into a Dodge Charger in the parking lot. After he identified himself, a suspect fired shots. After returning fire, 19-year-old Chase Harris was critically injured. The others remain at large.

Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, the calls for gun control were juxtaposed by the presence of numerous public attendees, protesting another police-related incident of violence.

On April 23, a Memphis police officer’s stop of motorist Cortavius Claxton allegedly resulted in a broken nose, burst lip, and cracked tooth. 

According to the initial police report, the 18-year-old was pulled over for a cracked windshield. The council speakers told council members that a recently passed city ordinance is supposed to ban these kinds of pretextual police stops for minor, non-threatening vehicle violations, which sometimes can lead to physical encounters between motorists and police.

However, an updated police report included accusations of disregarding a four-way stop and failure to use a turn signal. Passengers were also in Claxton’s vehicle.

Claxton’s mother accused police of slamming her son against a wall during the encounter.

Council Vice Chair J.B. Smiley Jr. has requested video of the incident.

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