shaundelle brooks testimony – opposition to TN permitless carry

My name is Shaundelle Brooks. I am a resident of Tennessee and a voter.

I am here today to urge you to vote against the proposed permit less carry legislation – legislation which would remove the requirement to obtain a criminal background check and basic gun safety training to carry a loaded firearm in public.

Data shows that states that have implemented these permit less carry laws have seen increases in overall gun deaths and gun homicides.

According to 2018 data, Tennessee is now 6th in the nation for firearm homicide, far outpacing the US average for firearm homicide.

Firearm homicide numbers have continued to increase in Tennessee, most noticeably in the last six years. According to 2018 data, 37 more Tennesseans were murdered with a gun in 2018 than in 2017.

An increase like that should matter to all Tennesseans. But it especially matters to me because one of those people murdered with a gun in 2018 was my son Akilah Dasilva.

Akilah was one four innocent young people who were gunned down inside an Antioch Waffle House on April 22, 2018. Akilah, his brother – my other son Abede – and Akilah’s girlfriend Tia were doing what many young people do – enjoying some late-night food before heading home for the night – when a young man entered the Waffle House and opened fire. Akilah and three other young people were killed, and Tia suffered a serious injury to her leg. Receiving a call that your child was shot and later learning he didn’t make it was devastating. Looking at his cold motionless body in a box was painful and traumatic. It’s something a mother, a parent, a family should never have to experience.

My son Akilah was a gifted artist and an excellent student. He wrote and produced songs, shot and edited videos, and built his own computer from scratch to work on his music. He was a computer engineer with a purpose. Akilah’s music was positive. Like many young people in our country, he was upset by the gun violence in our country and his music urged people to turn away from violence. One of the lines in one of his songs was “Forget about making a hashtag, throw all the guns in a trash bag.”

My son was a beautiful soul, who perfected how to be a son, a great brother to his siblings, and a loving boyfriend to Tia. But most of all Akilah wanted to live. We didn’t lose him: he was taken from us and none of our lives will ever, ever be the same.

The person who murdered my son was prohibited from possessing guns in his home state of Illinois. In Illinois, to purchase or possess a gun, you must have either a gun permit or a firearm owners identification card.

After he breached a secured area of the White House and following several run ins with police, Illinois authorities revoked his firearm owner’s identification card, which meant he could no longer legally possess guns in Illinois. He was allowed to dispossess his guns to his father.

When he decided to move to Tennessee, his father gave the guns back to him. At that point, both he and his father were breaking Illinois law, but after he crossed the Tennessee state line, he was legally allowed to be in possession of those guns because in our state, you are not required to have a permit or firearm owners identification card to possess a gun.

If you pass this permit less carry legislation, that means that someone like the disturbed man who murdered by son would not only be able to legally possess a gun in our state, he’d also be allowed to carry it in public.  He’d be able to carry loaded guns anywhere in Tennessee that guns are allowed, which in this state, is a lot of places.

Since my son was murdered, I have learned a lot about gun violence in our country and our state. I’ve studied the data and looked at the research. I’ve also dedicated my life to doing whatever I can to prevent another family from suffering the way my family has suffered – to prevent another mother from having to bury her child, from having to wake up every single day with a broken heart and the knowledge that she will grow old without him.

It is impossible to imagine the pain you feel when your loved one is violently taken from you until you experience it. It is a pain unlike any other.

It’s important to understand that the effects of gun violence are not just the loss of life. My son Abede, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, after what he saw and experienced inside that Waffle House. Akilah’s girlfriend Tia is not just in mourning over losing her boyfriend…her leg was completely shattered by the bullet that struck it. She has undergone multiple surgeries and is still unable to walk. She is in constant pain. We do not know if she will ever walk unassisted again.

My life is now dedicated to keeping my son’s memory alive and doing everything I can to reduce gun violence in our country and here in Tennessee. Today that means coming before you and asking you to please listen to law enforcement and public safety experts, families that are personally affected by such horrific and traumatic acts of violence and vote against this law.

I do not like speaking in public. I’m far outside of my comfort zone. I’m nervous sitting before you today, but I’m here because Akilah would want me to be here. I am his voice now, and I’m asking you to please do the right thing.

Tennessee has one of the worst gun violence in problems in the entire country. This legislation that you’re considering will do nothing to reduce gun violence in our state and based on other states’ data after they passed permit less carry, will lead to an increase in gun deaths in our state.

Please, instead of looking at ways to make it easier for people to carry more guns more places, consider evidence-based policies that make it harder for people who should not have access to guns to get their hands on guns and carry them in public.

Please, I ask you, as a citizen and a grieving mother, please vote no on this legislation.