A stray bullet killed a 12-year-old Memphis boy on Christmas morning following his letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee regarding gun laws.
In the letter, Artemis Rayford expressed concern about a new state law that allows most adults to carry a weapon without a permit, News 3 reported.
“I am a sixth-grader at Sherwood Middle School, and it is my opinion that this new law will be bad, and people will be murdered,” Rayford said in the letter.
Joyce Newson, Rayford’s grandmother, said he was inside his home on Haynes Street in the Orange Mound neighborhood, playing with Christmas presents when a slew of bullets shattered the house.
Newson said the 12-year-old, who she refers to as “Shun,” was a good kid with a bright future.
“I have a lot of grandkids, but Shun was the pack of the party. He made the party,” she added.
She said Rayford died in his mother’s arms.
“When he got shot, the only thing he could do was run to his mama,” Newson said. “It took her two days to wash the blood off her hands.”
Just days before his funeral on Jan. 8, Rayford’s family received the letter from his teacher addressed to Gov. Lee.
“I read this letter or two or three times,” Newson said.
Rayford said that he was part of the Memphis Police Department’s Gang Resistance Education and Training program in the letter to the governor. The program helps young children avoid violence and gang activity within the community, News 3 reported.
The 12-year-old said they discussed the effects of the state’s permit-less gun law.
“He wrote this letter not even knowing that he was going to be killed by the gun,” Newson said.
The law, which went into effect on July 1, 2021, permits anyone over the age of 21 and military members over 18 to carry a weapon, concealed or open, without safety training or a permit.
Though the law would allegedly increase punishments for gun-related offenses, it has received criticism from Memphis law enforcement.
“A person just walking down the street is not a call we can answer because we can’t even question that person about the weapon, according to this new law,” Sheriff Floyd Bonner said last year as the law went into effect.
However, Gov. Lee is a strong supporter of the new legislation.
“We can protect law enforcement; we can protect our citizens, and we can protect the 2nd Amendment all at the same time,” Lee said last year.
Newson said she hopes Rayford’s letter will inspire the city to make a change against gun violence.
“A lot of people thinking that, ‘I got a gun in my house. I’m safe.’ But that’s not the case. Because most of the time with them, who’s the one getting hurt? It’s the innocent one,” Newson said. “They think these guns are going to save them, but it’s really not. It’s got to be another solution besides using guns.”
There have been no arrests made for the 12-year-old’s death. If you know anything, call Crime Stoppers at (901) 528-CASH.