Last week, the MLK50 team took a much-needed break and it was lovely. But it’s impossible for me to leave the work behind completely. After all, we cover relevant and meaningful issues, the kinds that play out in everyday life.
That well-reported story reminded me about a piece our reporter Carrington J. Tatum is crafting. Recently, Rep. London Lamar sponsored a gun violence prevention bill that aims to frame gun violence as a public health issue. Carrington’s story seeks to look at what that would mean and what it would mean to adopt that approach. Look for his story soon.
Yes, the trend of more Black women arming themselves and gun violence are related; one of the reasons more Black women are picking up arms, the story says, is to have a sense of safety. Yet, as the story also points out, a state’s rate of gun ownership accounts for 40% of its femicide rate, and with each 10% state-level increase in gun ownership, the femicide rate by firearm increases by 10.2%. Also, the number of unintentional shooting deaths of children went up during the pandemic (there’s been a surge in gun buying because of the general unease). Tennessee is among the states without a safe storage or gun lock requirement.
So while it’s a seemingly logical response to crime at your door, the idea of gaining safety through gun ownership is … complicated.
I won’t judge those who buy guns, especially women, especially Black women. Feeling unsafe comes with the gender. As a Black woman, it’s hard for me to explain how terrifying the threat of sexual violence layered with a racist menace is.
My husband occasionally tries to persuade me that we should have a gun in our home. Just a small one, he’ll say. But I think about what bringing a gun into my home means. I firmly believe gun use often happens just because a gun is available. You shoot because you know you can. It’s an easy solution, one that probably feels powerful, and one that would leave me changed. Even in defense of my own, do I want to take a life?
We know that guns can be stolen; ask Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis. Do I want to possibly add to the number of criminally used guns in the world?
That’s why I think Carrington’s story offers something important to explore. Just like gun ownership, gun violence is an individual choice with community consequences. A public health lens demands holistic thinking. It demands we stop and mine the threads of our culture to determine whether who we are is who we want to be.
The preamble in our country’s constitution reveals safety as a key concern—an everyday concern. At MLK50, we’re exploring how we can truly “insure domestic tranquility” for everyone.
WORKPLACE SHOOTING: Fifteen people were shot—at least eight employees—and one killed in the September 2021 shooting at a Kroger supermarket in Collierville. Experts say employees may need extensive health services and support to recover.
EXPERTISE: Over eight months, writer Arionne Nettles spoke to Black mothers across the country and asked them about the gun violence that shaped their lives.
POLICY PROBLEM?: Now, there’s a push to lower the age to carry a gun to 18 (The bill is now on the calendar of the Civil Justice committee). This story explores the fear stoked when Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill allowing most people 21 and older to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, without a permit or training.