This scene outside of Cummings K-8 Optional School last week reflected the disturbing reality of a shooting inside the school. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/TSD Archives)

by Curtis Weathers —

TSD education columnist Curtis Weathers

The lives of two Cummings K-8 Optional School students and their families will forever be changed by the school shooting that took place last week.

In his response to the shooting, Shelby County Schools Supt. Dr. Joris Ray uttered words that have moved and resonated with me deeply.

SCS Supt. Dr. Joris Ray puts the school shooting in context during a press conference at Metropolitan Baptist Church. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Dr. Ray pleaded with our community, and I concur, for the sake of our children, let’s “PUT THE GUNS DOWN,” Memphis!

But this shooting at Cummings Elementary School is only a snapshot of the skyrocketing violence involving guns that is sweeping across our nation.

When there is gun violence on a school campus, it changes the culture and atmosphere of that school immediately and indefinitely.

The thing the scares me the most is how numb and desensitized we seem to have become to the gun violence that has engulfed communities throughout our nation, especially as it relates to our children.

According to Gun Violence Archive, last year marked the deadliest year for shooting-related incidents in the U.S. over the past 20 years, and current data suggests 2021 is on track to dramatically surpass those figures.

The Archive tracked almost 1,400 shooting incidents in one week-long period, a shooting every 10 minutes that left at least 404 people dead and 928 wounded.

In 2018, gun violence was the leading cause of death for all children and teens ages 1-19, surpassing motor vehicle accidents for the first time in history.

That trend continues today.

Recent data shows that children and teens are far more likely to die from gunfire than COVID-19.

New numbers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) show gun sales are at record high in our state.

Nearly one million guns were bought and sold last year alone, according to TBI.

Our political leaders in Tennessee (primarily Republicans) have been no help at all. They see clearly that gun violence is on the rise in our state, and what do they do?

They stoke the flames by passing permit-less carry gun legislation that makes it easier to purchase and carry guns.

And don’t be fooled for one moment; they know exactly what they’re doing and the consequences of their actions.

This epidemic affects urban low-income communities of color more so than any other socioeconomic group in America.

I don’t know about you, but I can feel the temperature rising!

Unfortunately, this will not be the last incident of this type in our schools.

It’s time to press the panic button, Memphis.

Think about it, the perpetrator at Cummings was a sixth grader who came to school that morning with the intent of killing another student.

Whenever someone carries a gun into a school with the goal of shooting another person, you must assume that the intent is to kill that person.

The callousness of that thought process in the mind of a sixth grader is chilling.

He didn’t make that decision at the breakfast table that morning. He most likely talked it over with someone else, who may have encouraged him to do precisely what he did.

And where exactly did the gun come from?

Remember, after the shooting, according to news reports, the young shooter got into a car with another person and drove away.

I, like many others, believe that we as a community have to be more proactive rather than reactive.

There are many people out there doing some great things to stem the violence, but we need to evaluate what we are doing and put together a more coherent approach to this issue.

I firmly believe there is enough pride in our community to put a stop to the senseless gun violence here in Memphis.

But we have to come together as a community to make it happen.

Lastly, I was incredibly moved by the response of the Cummings School shooting victim’s father, Mr. Emory Hammonds. Strength, grace, mercy, responsibility and gratefulness to God, all were wrapped up into one father’s eloquent response to the shooting of his son.

Thank you, Mr. Hammonds, and we’re praying for your family and your son’s speedy recovery!

But again, for the sake of our children, put the guns down, Memphis!

(Follow TSD education columnist Curtis Weathers on Twitter (@curtisweathers); email: [email protected].)