It’s time to talk.

It’s time to talk.

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Last week brought us yet another mass shooting. Our hearts break for the families of the innocents slain inside their house of worship – a place both famous for and targeted because of its historical significance to the African American community.

We mourn for the church’s pastor and champion of civil rights, State. Sen. Clementa Pinckney; for Tywanza Sanders, a recent graduate in business administration who stood bravely in front of his aunt Susie Jackson when the attack began; for Cynthia Hurd, a regional branch manager of the Charles County Public Library system who dedicated her life to the education of others; for Mira Thompson, who was also a pastor at Mother Emanuel; for Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a popular teacher and coach as well as reverend at her local church; for retired local pastor Daniel L Simmons; for Ethel Lance a 70 year old grandmother who worked at Mother Emanuel for 30 years; for Susie Jackson, an 87 year old cousin of Lance’s and long time member of Mother Emanuel and for Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, the mother of four girls who instilled each of them with a passion for education, adventure and individuality. We mourn, along with the city of Charleston and the rest of the nation, the loss of these nine beloved members of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church.

We are in awe of the grace and forgiveness shown by the families in the face of such crushing heartbreak.

Their loved ones came to that church to pray, to study Christian forgiveness and love and were instead met with guns and hate. We have too much of both in our country. We have too much of both in our state. This terrorist was able to bring his plan to fruition because a person who should not have been able to purchase a firearm was able to easily acquire one.

The terrorist used birthday money to legally purchase a gun despite a pending drug charge for illegal possession of a prescription medication used to treat opiate addiction.

Every day, 88 Americans die because of a bullet. Every year, over 30,000 Americans die from a gunshot wound. Even more are injured. Some are unintentional shootings, some are domestic violence shootings, some are murder-suicides, some are suicides, and some are homicides. There is no single solution to the multi-faceted problem of gun violence but they do share a single commonality: access to guns.

Each day, 8 American children die by gunshot- nearly 3,000 per year. Even more are injured. Many of those children are shot “accidentally” when an adult gun owner leaves a loaded gun where a child can find it. Here in Tennessee, since January alone, there have been at least 12 unintentional shootings involving children. Some of them remain hospitalized and will require long term care and rehabilitation. Five of them died. The two youngest victims were 2 and 4.

Here in Tennessee, politicians don’t want to talk about guns unless it is to pass bills written for them by the gun lobby. Bills that make it easier for people to purchase more guns and carry them more places.

The gun lobby and the lawmakers in Tennessee are afraid to confront the real cost of gun violence in our state. They are afraid to discuss the human cost in loss of life. They are afraid to discuss the medical costs to care for the lucky souls who inexplicably survive the initial attack and somehow make it to the long term care and rehabilitation stage.

They are afraid because the numbers are staggering.

A recent study concluded that gun violence cost Tennesseans $6,393,431,000 in 2012. Compare that to the $3.7 million spent on transportation, the $3.8 million spent on protection, or the $3.7 million spent on welfare.

Enough.

Stand with us. Join The Safe Tennessee Project and take action. We are currently seating an advisory board comprised of doctors, mental health professionals, researchers, and other community leaders who are passionate about this issue.

We are working with States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a national coalition of state gun violence prevention organizations. We are working with organizations around the country to address the gun violence in our country and in our states.

Gun violence prevention is a complicated issue. There are no easy answers. But, doing nothing is not an option. It can’t be.

We need to talk about gun violence. It’s time.

Sign up today. Your level of involvement is totally up to you. There are no dues. The only requirement is a desire to reduce the level of gun violence in our state

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