Staff Photo by Tierra Hayes / Police investigate near the 2100 block of McCallie Avenue following a shooting Sunday.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, 14 people were struck by gunfire, two of them killed, when bullets rained across McCallie Avenue. Three people were injured — one of them died — when they were struck by motorists fleeing the mayhem.

It was the second downtown shooting with multiple victims in eight days.

Right here in Chattanooga.

It's hard to put into words what our path forward is. Hard to imagine making the phone call to the loved ones of those injured or killed. Harder still to imagine getting that phone call.

Those words are incredibly difficult to imagine, but our conversation going forward now must be clear and focused.

Sunday afternoon, roughly 10 hours after the hailstorm of bullets and streams of blood covered a stretch of street a few miles from where he stood, Mayor Tim Kelly met with the media again under the worst possible circumstance.

As strong as his opening statements resonated and as impressive as his tenor and tone about seriously confronting the offenders and cracking down on criminality, his closing comments deviated.

"And finally, I am a gun owner. I've been an avid hunter and marksman all my life—and so I want to say this clearly, I fully support responsible gun ownership, but Congress needs to do their jobs and pass common sense regulations that will help stop this nonsense," Kelly said. "That doesn't mean taking guns away from responsible gun owners, but it does mean mandatory background checks and prohibiting high-capacity magazines that allow shooters to hurt dozens of people without having to so much as reload. In mass shootings between 2009 and 2020, high-capacity magazines led to five times as many people shot per mass shooting. This stuff is just common sense. And it's a simple way we can keep people safe."

In no way am I disagreeing with the sentiment of Kelly's speech. I, too, am a gun owner.

But these comments are not particularly pertinent to what our city is facing in this moment.

Why? Because does anyone really believe the people shooting into a crowd will be deterred by common-sense gun law reforms? Of course not. I'd be willing to bet the guns used in the city's most recent shootings were not legally purchased, licensed or registered. Wonder what kind of props DraftKings is offering?

(Side note: Yes, Congress doing its job is a pipe dream, but I appreciate the mayor giving our senators and congressmen the benefit of the doubt.)

Answers to pressing questions for the mayor's office and Chattanooga Police Department — is this gun violence gang-related, was Sunday morning's shootings retaliation, should we expect more violence next Saturday (if so, the mayor's Sunday to-do list will include media briefings after church and before lunch) — are critical in coming days. And the Police Department already releasing victims' details is a positive step toward transparency that was either unintentionally on purposefully lacking this time last week.

Our focus must be on cracking down on the violence plaguing our city. If you do not think this is a regional problem every bit as much as an issue that is a problem in a few ZIP codes, then you are missing what Chattanooga has become in the 2000s. Surely our city and county's brightest minds and biggest promoters are concerned about the reputational damage this violence is wreaking on Chattanooga's carefully curated turnaround story.

And the more immediate hit could be felt as the Scenic City has been a national dateline for all the wrong reasons. Say 1,000 fewer tourists show up in coming weeks, tourists who would spend several hundred bucks a night in food, lodging and entertainment. You do the math.

The mayor and new police chief, Celeste Murphy, have mentioned the need for better parenting. Well, we need better community support, too.

Sure, some politicians will hold community meetings. That's great. The mayor has pledged to launch several initiatives to combat the problem. Also fine.

Perhaps the group of Chattanooga ministers who have formed a strong political voice in the last two local elections could find time to help Murphy and Kelly, whom they backed in last year's mayor race.

There is no single answer to this.

But there is a singular truth: This is the biggest issue before us, and it affects all of us.

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

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Jay Greeson