published Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Summit takes aim at Chattanooga’s gun violence

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd speaks at the Gun Violence Summit at the UTC University Center auditorium Wednesday morning in Chattanooga. Paul Helmke, CEO of the Brady Campaign, spoke followed by a question and answer session with Dodd and the other panelists.  
Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd speaks at the Gun Violence Summit at the UTC University Center auditorium Wednesday morning in Chattanooga. Paul Helmke, CEO of the Brady Campaign, spoke followed by a question and answer session with Dodd and the other panelists. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press



* 19 — Homicides

* 70 — Shootings, with 84 victims

* 63 — Percentage of homicides that involved firearms

* 4 — Domestic-related cases

* 9 — Gang-related cases


* 20 — Homicides

* 54 — Shootings, with 67 victims

* 70 — Percentage of homicides that involved firearms

* 2 — Domestic-related cases

* 11 — Gang-related cases.


* 10 — Homicides

* 27 — Shootings, with 32 victims

* 78 — Percentage of homicides that involved firearms

Source: Chattanooga Police Department

So far this year in Chattanooga, an Eastside Elementary School third-grader brought a loaded .32-caliber revolver to class.

A Chattanooga Police Department sergeant was gunned down during a robbery call.

Ten of the 11 homicides victims countywide died from gunshot wounds.

All of that needs to be discussed openly, not only by law enforcement and government officials, but by everyone in the community, officials say.

“This is conversation, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how politically hot, it’s a conversation that we should be having in this community,” Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Wednesday at an anti-violence gun summit at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“We should be talking about guns because, when you boil it all down and talk about the incidents that have occurred, guns are in the middle of it,” he said.

As part of a gun violence summit hosted by the city, Paul Helmke, the CEO of the Brady Campaign — which touts itself as the nation’s largest organization working to prevent gun violence — spoke to a small crowd Wednesday at UTC, advocating tougher gun laws and responsible gun ownership.

Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said 32 people are slain daily in America with guns — the same number of people killed in the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.

“A Virginia Tech happens every day in this country,” he said.

The CDC numbers grow to 85 if suicides and accidental deaths are included, he said.

One of Helmke’s main issues is the lack of laws regulating sales of guns by private individuals, something that often happens at gun shows. Under federal law — the so-called Brady bill — brick-and-mortar gun dealers must run background checks on everyone who buys a gun, he said, but dealers at gun shows are considered private and don’t have to run such checks.

“If we all agree — if we’re gun owners, NRA members, whatever — that felons shouldn’t be able to get guns, people who are mentally ill shouldn’t get guns, then we should require a background check basically on all sales,” Helmke said. “The person that killed the (Chattanooga) police officer in April got his gun at a gun show where he didn’t have to go through a background check.”

Jesse Mathews, who is accused of killing Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin during a robbery call on April 2, traded stolen guns from Colorado at a local gun show for the weapon he later used to kill Chapin, police say.

Rachel Parsons, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, cited a Department of Justice study stating that less than 2 percent of guns purchased at gun shows are used in crimes. She said a vast majority of people who sell firearms at the gun shows are licensed dealers — not private sellers.

Helmke said people should lobby their legislators to pass laws that would require background checks for the sale of every gun, whether it’s in a store or a gun show.

Parsons said “any piece of legislation would be written so overbroad it would make it illegal for a grandfather to give his grandson a gun without inviting the federal government into it.”

Sufficient gun laws already are on the books and should simply be enforced, she said.

Aside from tougher laws, Helmke said police departments should be strengthened in terms of resources, and civilian access should be limited for high-powered weapons with high-capacity clips.

The Tucson, Ariz., man accused of killing six people and grievously wounding U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 11 others in January had a weapon with an expanded 31-round clip, Helmke noted.

Since then, federal legislation has been filed to outlaw civilian access to such high-capacity ammunition magazines and high-powered assault rifles, he said.

“We’ve been seeing more of the assault weapons, more of these assault clips, and we get tragedies like Tucson, where someone can get 31 shots off in 15 seconds,” he said.

Parsons disagreed and said law-abiding citizens use the assault rifles for a variety of reasons such as sports shooting or self-defense against multiple assailants.

“You want to have the best and most powerful firepower for yourself,” she said. “We’re talking about lawful people. It’s not the magazine — it’s the criminal.”

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said traces are run on all guns that are confiscated by the department to see if the guns are stolen or have been used in previous crimes.

“We track every gun no matter if it’s confiscated or turned in,” he said.

In 2008, police seized 579 weapons, he said, while 682 weapons were picked up in 2009 and 589 weapons collected in 2010.

Helmke and other officials at Wednesday’s summit said they’re not against responsible gun ownership, and said dealing with gun violence is not a Second Amendment issue.

“We’re not talking about gun control as people think of gun control. We’re talking about gun responsibility,” Littlefield said.

Helmke noted that, even if most of a city’s gun violence is happening in specific neighborhoods, the ripple effects are destructive to the entire community.

“People say it’s not my problem, it’s not my part of town, it’s not my issue,” he said.

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ArthurTN said...

(Part 2)

So, instead of devoting time, resources, and manpower to cutting out guns; which is something that just can't be done. Devote time to making an actual difference in the lives of these people. Don't hand out state assistance and hope for the problem to go away. Don't ignore the situation and hope it'll go away. Work with these people. It's no secret which communities that the problems are in. Take away pork projects and get special interests out of our pocket and put some money into the people; counseling, medical help, SCHOOLS, GOOD SCHOOLS. Put power back in teachers hands where they can correct a child in the way which he/she would go. Don't tie their hands, when you do that, you empower the criminal mindset of "I'm in charge, the world can't stop me, the law works for me not the other way around". The sense of entitlement throughout our entire culture is crippling our communities.

Spare the rod and spoil the whole country, nevermind the child, it's his entire country.

One last piece of my sermon and I'm done.

You want to free up resources to make a real difference in the community? You want to take the power and money and strength out of the gang's hands? Lift the laws on marijuana, crack, meth, and any other common drug sold on the streets. You make it easy to get,you take away its power. Don't try to tax it, don't try to regulate it, that will only bring on more problems. I can't count the times I've heard "drug-related shooting" "drug related gun violence". Well, if that's what it's related to, then how are you going to stop it?

Another good example of why outlawing assault weapons/magazines, etc; aren't drugs outlawed? Aren't they completely illegal? But dang...with a little digging around I could get that in the UTC neighborhoods in a heartbeat, or even over in North Chattanooga, it's no mystery that hippies enjoy their medicinal smoking. Yet, it's outlawed.'s everywhere.

You can outlaw guns all day but it won't make a difference. Until you figure out a way to change the lives of the people in our once great state and nation, the problem will never go away.

May 19, 2011 at 8:51 a.m.
ArthurTN said...

(Part 1) I'll forward this on to Mr. Dodd as well in hopes that it might be read, but gun control is not the answer, and the reason is because you CAN NOT control it. I agree gunshow laws should be tightened, that's all well and fine. But how do you control when the two parties just go down the street to one of the party's homes and trade guns there? You can't, you simply can't.

Furthermore, say you were able to take every single gun away that there ever was. If your officers are still armed, that's the number one thing criminals will want. Your police officers are now even more of a target. So, you take the officers away, all guns are now gone.

What about knives? What about improvised explosives? What about fire? Cars? Beatings?

The mind of a criminal is the real weapon. I don't have any hard stats on it, but I'd be willing to guess that out of 10 gun owners 9.9 have never commited a crime or desired to. Why do people want high capacity magazines (they are not called clips unless you're shooting a Garand) why do people want semi-automatic weapons? To protect themselves from such criminals. It's the minority of criminals against the vast majority of people who have guns for defense, hunting, and my personal favorite; competition. Look at Top Shot on TV, look at the awesome competitive atmostphere at a local IDPA or 3 Gun match or Cowboys match like those held in Cleveland every month. These are people who treat it as a sport and they love their sport. These are people who have families who they want to protect from the criminal mind.

Chicago and Washington DC had STRONG anti-gun laws and look how much is helped their cities. It didn't. It disarmed the innocent and gave power to the criminal.

You want to change the face of crime? Don't look on the surface, look at the cause of it. It's not hidden. It's very plain to see.

I can't speak for the wild-card from Colorado who took the life of a well-respected officer; evil can be random.

But in your community, the ghetto mindset and lifestyle somehow is a glorified thing. People subjected to years of parental abuse, alcoholism, violence in the home; they don't see a way out. So, they embrace the lifestyle that's so prevalent in the urban communities. Gang life, drug dealing; these are a way out to them. Big money, respect, notoriety. And the tools of the trade for gangs and drug dealers? Guns. The see it as power, power they didn't have growing up, respect they didn't have growing up, white, black, latino, it doesn't matter. This lifestyle is intriguing to them because it's seen as an escape from their current reality.

May 19, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Why doesn't the summit "take aim" at Chattanooga's violent offenders.. or just it's violence in general?

Is that too scary?

Do the fat little piggies feel safer whilst jabbering for the cameras from behind a desk?


May 19, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
mhbraganza said...

Why didn't they list all the violent crimes that have been PREVENTED by armed citzen heroes? Oh wait....

May 19, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.
manlyman said...

The Second Amendment to the Constitution: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Notice the terms "well regulated" and "militia"? "Well regulated" gives the government the right to regulate the purchasing and ownership of arms. And do any of you belong to a militia, regulated or not?

May 19, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
Leaf said...

The solution of course is an obvious compromise bewteen 2nd amendment supporters and anti-gun people. That compromise is to very heavily regulate handguns but have less regulation for long guns.

Defending your home or overthrowing the government (the original justification for amendment #2) is best accomplished with a rifle. Robbing a liquor store or overcompensating for a lack of ahem manliness is best accomplished with a handgun.

May 19, 2011 at 4:45 p.m.
Sailorman said...


It would be beneficial to you to do a little research before tossing out statements with no basis in fact. Google "well regulated militia". Your statement is common amongst the antigun crowd - wrong but common

May 19, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.
Momus said...

They have gun violence in their cross hairs.

May 19, 2011 at 8 p.m.
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