Memphis Branch NAACP President Van Turner Jr. presses the case for developing a community-backed plan to address gun violence. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

The Memphis Branch NAACP plans to use its upcoming general membership meeting as a platform to move toward a community-backed plan to address gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo.

Vickie Terry, executive director of the Memphis Branch NAACP. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Executive Director Vickie Terry said the meeting would be held at Mount Olive CME Church, 538 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., on May 26.

“We need everybody in the Memphis community to come together,” said Terry. “We’re going to send letters to our legislators. We’re going to invite them to come and be with us because we all need to come together and make sure that this does not stop with this one meeting.

“We’re going to continue to work together so that we can come up with a plan to help our community.”

Terry, Memphis Branch NAACP President Van Turner Jr., an array of local democrats and activists held a press conference to show their resolve to end gun violence and address the associated factors.

Turner envisioned “a three-point plan” that would be submitted to Gov. Bill Lee and to the head of the two houses of the state legislature.

“I mean, they have to do more. They should be here with us. They should be struggling with this problem like we’re struggling with this problem,” said Turner.

“They should not be caving in to the rhetoric that their party holds. Because we all know that there are members of the Republican Party, which upholds the Second Amendment right like it’s the Holy Bible.”

Concerned citizens from myriad quarters inn Greater Memphis gathered in the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo, where the gunman targeted Black people. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-
State Defender)

Turner said elected officials on every level must do more.

Gabby Salinas, head of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said said Democrats have stood firm in opposition to recently passed legislation such as permitless carry, adding, “I would love for that to be reconsidered for the next session. That’s something that the (Gov. Bill) Lee administration is going to have to address.”

Democrats are ready to support solutions, but can’t do it alone, she said.

“We need the majority to join us in this fight. Because even if every Democrat votes for it, it would not pass. We need the Republicans to stand by the claims that they are pro-life and pass common sense laws here in Tennessee.”

Turner said there is an acute need to “be serious about addressing mental health. … I’m on the County Commission. We need to call on the Commission. We need to call on City council. We need to call on our mayors to make sure that we put addressing mental health in the budgets.”

An audience member interjected that the 18-year-old charged in the Buffalo shooting, where 10 people were killed, “was following somebody’s direction. And we’re saying we need to direct our attention to the mentally ill youth? We need to find out who these people are that are putting this seed into the kids.”

Turner responded. “When we say address mental illness, we mean that we need to address that but this is not something to let this person off. We’re not saying let him go. Because there is a difference between an illness and you saying that you were insane and didn’t know what you were doing. He knew exactly what he was doing and he should stand trial  … But something was wrong with him and that’s where we have to start addressing.”

Adrian Ward, making reference to so-called white replacement theory that is being linked to spikes in violence against Black people, said, “we can’t just look at guns and then overshadow some of the primary things that need to be looked at.  …

“So we need to look at all aspects of what’s taking place that’s killing our people. …We got to look at the whole piece of the pie and not just pieces of the pie now. Because it’s critical.”

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