KNOXVILLE (WATE) – People across the nation and the globe heard a story all too familiar to East Tennesseans Wednesday night – the tragedy and the heroism of Knoxville teen Zaevion Dobson. The innocent victim of gunfire died protecting two friends. With his two brothers at her side, Zaevion’s mother Zenobia Dobson accepted the Arther Ashe Courage Award on his behalf.
In her acceptance speech, she called for our country to take a stand against gun violence and specifically called out lawmakers in Tennessee.
“We need to rewrite laws to make it harder for people to get guns. Some progress has been made, but just a few months ago in Tennessee a law was passed to allow more people to carry guns on college campuses. What sense does that make?” she said.
Related story: Zaevion Dobson’s mother accepts Arthur Ashe Courage ESPY
Lawmakers WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with agree that violence needs to stop in the community, but people disagree on how Tennessee should do that when it comes to our Second Amendment right.
“Zenobia talked about her son. Talked about little cousin 12-year-old Jujuan. You know how many more have to die?” said State Rep. Joe Armstrong.
“Calling for sensible controls and sensible legislation that would try to diminish these outbreaks,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero.
Elected leaders in Knoxville are calling for stricter gun laws but is it likely for Tennessee to see this legislation? Just recently, faculty at the University of Tennessee were given permission to carry guns on campus, if they had a permit.
“It makes me feel a little bit more safe knowing that there is a chance for protection if something ever happened,” said Matt Hensley, a University of Tennessee student.
State Senator Richard Briggs voted in favor of this bill. He agrees that stories, like what happened to Zaevion, are terrible tragedies. Yet, Senator Briggs does not believe taking away guns will reduce the violence. Instead, he thinks enforcing the law will.
“We can pass more gun laws but the problem is that the criminals don’t want to obey the law and they are not going to obey the law,” said Briggs.
Some legislators believe it will be difficult to enact tighter gun laws because of Tennessee’s strong ties to the National Rifle Association.
“When this starts happening in the affluent communities, drive-bys or whatever, then they will decide to do something about it,” said Armstrong.
“Step back. It’s okay if you lose your NRA funding of your campaign and listen to your constituents,” said Alex Schnelle, a University of Tennessee student.
Leaders said they need the community’s support to see changes in Tennessee’s gun laws.
“For us to see the change that we want, we need people speaking out like Zenobia had the courage to do,” said Rogero.