MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – A group of Memphians went to Nashville Wednesday, supporting two Memphis state lawmakers who want to bulk up the penalties for drive-by shootings and gang-related crimes.The proposal is in response to last month’s unsolved drive by killings of three children in two days.
State representatives G.A. Hardaway and Jesse Chism want to establish new guidelines for what they call ‘community terrorism,’ violence carried out by gang members.
While some community activists are thankful they’re taking it on, others argue increasing criminal penalties won’t prevent violence or cut down on deadly shootings.
“We tired of losing these innocent babies,” activist Frank Gottie said.
Gottie admits he’s still reeling emotionally, weeks after three children were shot and killed in Memphis: six-year-old Ashlyn Luckett and 16-year-old Lequan Boyd in Hickory Hill and 10-year-old Jadon Knox in Orange Mound, a vigil Gottie helped organize.
“When i saw all those babies around those candles you know it broke my heart because they knew what was going on,” Gottie said.
Rep. Hardaway and Rep. Chism are pushing a bill to bulk up the penalties for drive by shootings which claim the innocent lives of children.
Wednesday afternoon, with Memphis supporters in Nashville by their side, they pushed House Bill 1478, which would also create community terrorism as a chargeable offense for gang members.
“To shoot in a house, you’ve got to be kind of like a terrorist, because that means you don’t have no care in the world,” Gottie said.
Josh Spickler of the criminal justice reform group Just City felt differently about the proposal.
He told Local 24 News, “Legislation like this is an inappropriate response. Overwhelming evidence suggests enhanced sentences do not deter future criminal behavior.”
Gottie said there’s another challenge keeping wanted killers free on the streets.
“People are afraid to talk because people are scared to get their houses shot into,” Gottie said.
Memphis Police have yet to make any arrests in last month’s two deadly drive-by shootings.