As a series of forums about curbing gun violence unfold in Memphis, the bullets keep flying, punctuating the need, organizers say, for sustained, collective action that cannot come too soon.
“I just got a call not 24 hours after last night’s gun violence meeting that a local rapper just got shot,” said Stevie Moore, founder of Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN). “At some point we’ve got to say enough is enough.”
On Tuesday night (Nov. 16), the first of two scheduled forums this week on gun violence drew a crowd in Frayser to The Pursuit of God Transformational Center, which hosted a “Gun Violence Community Meeting.” Host Pastor Ricky Floyd welcomed law enforcement and community leaders, including Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr.
The next afternoon, Davis and Bonner were responding to the high-profile fatal shooting of popular rapper Young Dolph, whose legal name is Adolph Robert Thornton Jr.
In a released statement, Davis called the shooting “another example of the senseless gun violence” being experienced locally and across the nation. At an evening press conference, she said, “Too many families, too many mothers and too many fathers have suffered, and frankly I think we are all tired of it.”
Bonner heard about the shooting while in Franklin, Tennessee, where he was convening as a member of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association legislative committee.
“This is such a tragedy … just one more senseless killing,” Bonner told The New Tri-State Defender.
At Tuesday’s forum, Bonner and the other principal speakers listened to the concerns of those who came out.
“Memphis, we can do better,” Bonner said at one point. “But it’s going to take all of us. We have to put aside all of our petty issues and come together as a community.”
He lamented legislation that recently became law and that he views as having opened the door for even more guns in circulation.
“People will just pull the trigger because they think this is the way to resolve problems,” Bonner said. “This killing has got to stop.”
Davis told the crowd Memphis police are committed to working with the community to find solutions. She echoed that on Wednesday evening.
“We are committed to working with the community to stop these senseless murders. We are also committed to bringing those responsible for this (the Young Dolph) shooting and other shootings to justice. We also encourage anyone with information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-2274.”
Moore said he would like to see 5,000 people coming together downtown, making a stand against gun violence.
“These young men and women have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Moore. “And they are just shooting each other. I was feeling really good about the meeting we had on Tuesday evening, and the very next day, someone guns down this young man.
“And we have another meeting on Thursday evening (5 p.m.-6 p.m.) at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church 3560 South Third St.). We must keep talking about how we can fight gun violence.”
Bonner agreed that conversations must be ongoing. He also put emphasis on dealing with mental health, calling it “our community’s dirty, little secret.”
“If we know someone needs help with a mental issue, we have to say something so that resources may be brought to bear to assist them,” Bonner said. “Before some tragedy happens is the time to speak up. Mental issues are sometimes a factor in gun violence.”
Addressing the media Wednesday evening in the wake of Young Dolph’s killing, Davis said, “My heart goes out to the Thornton family and everyone who was affected by this horrific act of violence. We strongly encourage everyone to stay home if you do not have to be out. We also encourage everyone to remain calm as we actively perform our investigation.”
MPD was providing an increased presence in areas of the city that might be directly impacted by the killing of Thornton, said Davis, adding that no curfew was deemed warranted overnight.