NASHVILLE, Tennessee – A panel of five people, with views mostly skewed to the left, discussed gun violence and how to address it in Tennessee.
Although one member of the panel, State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R – Springfield, came at the topic from the right.
The event, held at The Temple in Nashville, also included Vanderbilt professor Jonathan Metzl, Safe Tennessee Project Executive Director Beth Joslin Roth, Nashville Deputy Chief of Police Brian Johnson, and Gideon’s Army founder Rasheedat Fetuga.
Roberts acknowledged there were few other Republicans in the room. He also said his total campaign donations from the NRA and Tennessee Firearms Association amounted to only $1,750.
“As a legislator, the struggle that I have is this. People come before us with facts and figures (about gun violence). Then the next group comes before us with facts and figures. Both groups are, in many cases, taking the same data and drawing entirely different conclusions,” Roberts said.
“And here we are trying to sort out what are we going to do in this situation? An even larger question that haunts each one of us is ‘Are we making a decision that actually solves the problem?’”
Moderator Blake Farmer of Nashville Public Radio, asked Metzl if society had too many — or too few— firearms restrictions.
Metzl’s response: “If laws are having bad outcomes then we need better laws. We don’t outlaw houses when people die in house fires, we build smoke alarms.”
Roth, meanwhile, said arguments prompt many shootings. People, she went on to say, steal many guns from other people’s vehicles.
Fetuga segued to the topic of race.
“There are two different conversations that happen. There is a conversation about mass shootings, which are defined as four or more people who have been injured in a shooting or killed. Then there is the conversation about violence in the black community. We talk about restriction of guns, but we don’t talk about the history of that conversation,” Fetuga said.
“And the original conversations about the restrictions of gun laws was around freed men or people who were indentured servants in this country and freed white men. When black people began to become free from slavery then constitutions, including the Tennessee Constitution, changed to say freed white men. And so there is a lack of solidarity in these conversations.”
Roberts made this point:
“Law abiding citizens feel they are unfairly targeted. Criminals don’t obey laws,” Roberts said.
“Are we doing something a criminal is going to take note of? Prison numbers are high. If a legislature passes a law exactly how much difference will it make?”
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