The state of Tennessee must treat gun violence as the public health emergency that it is and work with cities to better understand and adequately fund the strategies we must implement to address it. However, when the state fails to take action, cities must step up to keep their residents safe and healthy. The evidence shows that investments in community-based gun violence interventions are not only effective at reducing community violence, particularly gun violence, but they also save cities money. The city of Knoxville must commit the funding necessary to ensure violence intervention work is well resourced in our city. Doing so will better address the problem, free up our law enforcement to focus on solving crimes rather than trying to predict them which does not work, and create healthier safer communities where our youth can thrive. Read below for ways to take action in Knoxville to ensure we as a city make the investments in violence intervention that we need.

To stop the rise in gun violence, we must take action

Unfortunately, both bills that call on our state to treat gun violence as a public health crisis have failed.

Rep. Sam McKenzie's bill, HB 2599 - Public Health Impacts of Gun Violence, failed in the House Health Committee.

SB 1773/HB 1830 - the Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis bill, is scheduled to be heard by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on 4/6/22; however, the bill failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/22/22.

We still have an opportunity to influence the state budget. The proposed state budget contains $150 million to support violent crime intervention grants in our state but only law enforcement agencies may apply. The time is now for the residents of Tennessee to let their representatives know what type of support our communities need to end gun violence. Despite the fact that resources for traditional law enforcement continue to increase, we must hold steadfast as a community to the strategies that have been shown to work to reduce violence and create safer, healthier communities. We must invest in community-based solutions and stop any attempt to further over police our communities.

Call on the Kincannon Administration to Spend the Money Budgeted and Increase Future Funding

Gun-related deaths among youth are not a new occurrence in Knoxville. It was not long ago that our city gained national attention following the shooting death of 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson who lost his life while shielding three young girls from gunfire. At the time, the city was a part of Cities United and had formed the Save our Sons program two years prior to the string of murders that occurred during the time. After Zaevion's death, the mayor doubled the budget of the Save Our Sons office and more than tripled the funding going to violence intervention programs, increasing the budgeted amount to $381,000 in the FY 17 budget. Read more about the work accomplished during that period here.

In comparison, the city of Knoxville spent $167,879.80 in FY 21 of the $1 million budgeted last year. And as of March 1, 2022, only $83,782.45 has been spent thus far of the $1 million budgeted in FY 22. In April 2021, Councllwoman Seema Singh introduced a resolution respectfully requesting the Administration earnestly consider allocating funding separate from traditional funding for police and fire in the FY 22 budget and future budgets to reduce and prevent crime as well as fund interventional programming. The resolution passed without mention of the $6 million annual commitment that Councilwoman Singh and others were calling for. At this rate, we will have spent more on gun violence prevention in FY 17 than in the past two years combined, both of which were record breaking years for the number of gun homicides in our city, particularly of young people.

We must call on the Kincannon Administration to move with urgency to distribute the funds City Council approved for community-based violence prevention and intervention work in the FY 22 budget, to commit to a public health approach to gun violence and increase the funding going to this work in future budgets, and to abandon the current police-centric approach that has proven costly, ineffective, and traumatizing to communities.

Contact Mayor Kincannon by emailing mayor@knoxvilletn.gov or calling 865-215-2040.