NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – News 2 is getting a look at new data on teenagers illegally carrying guns in Nashville. The statistics revealed dozens of repeat offenders, while hundreds of people enable them by not locking their car doors.
“This generation has seen more death in their young lives than I have in my whole lifetime and I’m probably double the age of some of these kids,” said Shelia Westbrooks, First Lady at C.H.A.N.G.E. Ministry Church.
It’s at church where people often share a common faith, but at C.H.A.N.G.E. Ministry, they have found a common mission.
“Not wondering if I go out my door, is my child going to make it home this afternoon, or if she goes to Walmart and she gets on the bus, will she make it home? Who worries about that stuff? Everybody now. I don’t care what community you live in, nobody’s exempt,” explained Westbrooks.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
It’s a problem Westbrooks takes seriously. C.H.A.N.G.E. Ministry is one of many places of worship that partner with the Metro Nashville Police Department to serve as a safe place, that offers a “no questions asked” process where community members can anonymously turn in a firearm. Once the weapons are turned into the church, pastors or the church staff contact the police, and officers come to retrieve them.
Westbrooks explained how her husband, the pastor, told her he wanted to be part of the initiative. She remembered thinking it was a great idea and aligned with the environment they both wanted to create in the community.
Many of the crimes in Nashville have two things in common — cars and guns. On Tuesday, Metro police released new numbers that showed 1,338 guns have been stolen from vehicles in Nashville. Oftentimes, they are used to commit violent crimes.
“You have no knowledge of how to use it, you’re not trained, you’re just haphazard shooting a gun and taking somebodies life, or injuring them for life,” Westbrooks explained.
It’s not just the increase in crime, but the increase in violence that has community members worried. News 2 went digging into the numbers and found that 120 juveniles were charged with possessing a handgun on their first offense. On a second offense, police arrested 63 people. This accounts for arrests made between January and November 2022.
Westbrooks says she believes oftentimes, these young people have no idea how gun violence can affect a community, not only for the victim of the crime but also their own family.
“You’re parents thinking you’re going to school, doing the right thing, they are going to work trying to make a living to keep a roof over your head, and you’re out here committing a crime just because you’re trying to prove something to somebody that you can.”
Westbrooks explained she sees the effects of violence firsthand. The church works with the organization Mothers Over Murder, led by Clemmie Greenlee. Over the weekend, the group held a gathering to help mothers who are struggling with their loved ones who have died and whose cases have grown cold.
Both organizations agree, with the help of the community, it’s possible to help juveniles.