by Amy Weirich —
We had never met, but I would know her face anywhere. Kind smile. Quiet. Polite. Sad.
I felt the sadness when I walked in the room and introduced myself. She carries that everywhere and always will.
Her granddaughter had been murdered a few weeks earlier. The man accused of the murder was due in court that day and I was meeting her for the first time.
I sat down next to her, introduced myself and talked a little bit about the case and what to expect over the next few months; that we would do everything we could to make the process as smooth as possible and answer her questions.
That we would be there for her every step of the way.
Then I asked her about her granddaughter. She was raising her.
“She was my little buddy,” she explained. Though it didn’t need to be said. You could feel that. Then, through the sadness, a small smile as she played a video on her phone for me of the young girl dancing. The kind of happy, free dance that only a child can do.
She died as a result of a gunshot. The gunman intended to kill someone else. That doesn’t make it less of a crime. That doesn’t make it less difficult for this woman on holidays. Or Saturdays. Or nothing days.
This week Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced he wants to drastically change gun laws in Tennessee.
Currently, under Tennessee law, you must apply for and be granted a handgun permit if you want to carry in public.
“The citizens of this state have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defense; but the general assembly has the power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”
That is the first sentence in the current statute on handgun permits. The law goes on to outline who can obtain a permit and how to do it.
If you are a convicted felon, do not apply. You can’t possess a gun.
If you struggle with mental health issues, do not apply. You are not eligible for wearing of arms.
Have you been convicted of domestic assault? If so, no thank you.
Have you been trained on handling a handgun? No? Come see us when you have.
A permit is what separates the folks who hope they never have to pull the trigger from the folks who are itching to pull it.
Gov. Lee wants to pass constitutional carry. Another way of saying permit-less carry. Anyone. Everyone. Wear your arms.
Currently, if an officer sees someone in public with a handgun, they must be able to produce their permit. If they don’t have one, they can be charged with a crime. If they have one, we know they are trained and not prohibited under the law from possessing a deadly weapon.
Without the permit system, there is no way to know who carries to protect and who carries to prey.
If the permit process is onerous and unfair because of costs associated with it, eliminate the costs for applying and being trained.
Why would we eliminate the need to be trained on proper storage and handling of a deadly weapon?
We have seen gun crimes spike across our county and country. Too many guns in the hands of those looking for a victim. Any victim.
If you are outraged, impacted, moved by any of this, join us Saturday, Feb. 27for our Second Unity Walk. We will gather at 9:30 a.m. at Hillcrest High School parking lot at 4184 Graceland Drive in Whitehaven.
We will walk a little more than a mile through the Whitehaven community. To show our unity. To show our commitment to stopping gun violence in Shelby County.
Our first Unity Walk in the Downtown area was a huge success. More than 500 supporters came out to show their commitment to the cause.
We immediately began planning our second one and hope you will help us make it even bigger and better.
(Amy Weirich is the District Attorney for the 30th Judicial District and a member of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Board of Directors. The Board voted unanimously to oppose permit-less carry legislation.)