City, federal officials speak out after 9 shot over weekend in S - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City, federal officials speak out after 9 shot over weekend in Savannah

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

The latest series of shootings spanning the weekend has local and state leaders alike wondering when Savannah will catch a break.

Residents and visitors are feeling the effects too, as the shootings not only hit crime hot spots but also busy tourist areas.

The Savannah Chamber of Commerce owners’ luncheon was held Monday, and while the chamber didn't have an official statement, this weekend’s shootings in and around the downtown area are clearly events they're paying attention to.

Nine people were injured over the weekend by gunfire, some the intended targets, some not, is cause for continued concern in Savannah.  Business leaders are hoping the police department replenishes their ranks, and anti-gun violence initiatives will put a significant dent in the spiking crime.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter was the featured speaker at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, and WTOC asked him before that kicked off what his thoughts were on Savannah's crime woes.

"A lot of people are looking to the federal government for relief. The relief has got to come from within. We've got to solve this within this community. That's the only way it's ever going to be resolved. And that's why I'm so excited to see the area preachers involved, I'm so excited to see all of the area leaders, the business people. Everyone understands that this healing has got to come from within,” said Rep. Carter.

But does a certain state law hamstring local law enforcement from policing illegal firearm use and possession effectively? One Savannah city leader said he believes it does, and that's one of the contributing factors to the city's gun violence.

Alderman Van Johnson's district saw some of the weekend violence.  We asked him what went through his mind when police notified him about the shootings.

"Sickened as usual,” Johnson said. “All of that in the midst of going to wakes and funerals of those who have been involved with gun violence the week before."

At least three of the people shot over the weekend were 16 years of age or younger. Johnson said responsibility to steer young people away from gun violence needs to start at home. 

"We know what they are involved in, we know what they do, we need to tell them to put down the guns or we are going to turn them in ourselves,” Johnson said. “If a parent loves their child, and they know their child is in that life, they should love them enough to tell them that."

But Johnson said the responsibility to keep citizens safe doesn't fall solely on the parent or guardian, or even on police, adding more needs to be done at the state level.

“Ultimately we need to be serious enough to be able to take the kind of action that we need to take legislatively, to be able to address these things," Johnson said.

Johnson said he believes House Bill 60, or the Guns Everywhere Bill, signed into law last year holds Savannah back from taking guns used in these shootings off the streets.

"It boggles my mind that we're concerned about issues of gun violence when our state law prohibits law enforcement officers from inquiring about the legal status of a gun," Johnson said.

Johnson is referencing the portion of the law that says police can't stop a person to verify if they have a conceal carry permit. That law does allow permit holders to carry guns in churches, school zones, bars and government buildings. 

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