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Staff photo / Police Chief Celeste Murphy discusses last night's downtown Chattanooga shootings at a news conference at police headquarters. Mayor Tim Kelly is at far left.

The shooting downtown Saturday night shook us. Shook all of us, if I had to guess.

Not to be callous, but the sorrow and worry feel more intense the closer to home these tragedies occur.

The Walnut Street Bridge. That ice cream shop next to the big dog statue. Right next to the Holmberg Bridge.

You get the idea.

That this comes on the heels of the school shooting in Texas and the hospital shooting in Oklahoma only adds fuel to the heated debate about guns and our entrenched political divisiveness.

Let's be clear: No teenager should be carrying a firearm in downtown. Not here. Not anywhere. Ever. And we sure as heck do not want to live in a city where bodies fall in the streets on routine weekend nights.

But our shooting is less about the gun conversation and more about the fight against local criminal activity.

Read Mayor Tim Kelly's initial quote a few hours after the shooting: "I can't say this clearly enough, easy access to illegal guns is killing kids, and our community has a responsibility to put a stop to it. This is exactly why I joined mayors from across the United States last week to call on the U.S. Senate to pass common-sense gun reforms to our gun safety laws. Background checks, red flag laws, raising the age limit so that children can't purchase assault rifles."

I can't say this clearly enough: The common-sense reforms some politicians say must now be on the table are not applicable here, and Kelly admits it when he says, "easy access to illegal guns."

So while we watch the politicos duke it out in D.C. over what they want to do — or not want to do in an election year — about this toxic issue, let's not lose sight of our immediate priority: What's being done to solve a gunfight that turned Cherry Street into the OK Corral.

There are too many questions about the Chattanooga shooting at this point. What do we know so far? Authorities questioned one suspect and are looking at all available video. As Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod suggested, that's simply not enough.

Still, Coonrod's laments — this needs to be about answers more than funding — feel disconnected. And the city's plan to pay six-figures for a "director of gun violence prevention and public safety" seems more like a line item in a campaign brochure than an effective solution to an incredibly complex problem.

How about we find a director of getting witnesses to talk and identify shooters and pay that person $150K with benefits?

Here are some questions about the shooting for which we have no answers — yet. Was it gang-related? Authorities have said there was no evidence of that as of now, but would it shock any of us if that changes? Do we know what type of weapon was used? Do police anticipate retaliation? Are the kids who were "critically" injured doing OK? Have police issued any added safety guidelines for downtown businesses and residents?

If the police are holding back details to aid their investigation, OK. That makes sense, but why not say so?

Because, after the life-saving efforts of the first-responders — and they were heroic — the follow-up from city leadership beyond the mayor's predictable comments and the expected outrage from City Council members and Hamilton County commissioners has been rather uninspiring.

It all kind of reminds me of the silence that followed the Grove Street shootings earlier this year. You remember that, right? Two women killed and five injured? A big call to action that featured a public prayer session at a downtown church and then crickets?

So we will end with this: Welcome to Chattanooga, Police Chief Celeste Murphy. It's pretty clear the honeymoon's over.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. Follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp.

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Jay Greeson
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