Memphis mayor fights teen gun violence

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is kicking off a new initiative to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of teenagers.

Late last year, Memphis was one of five cities awarded a $4.8 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

We are now starting to see how that money is being used to address juvenile gun crimes.

It is a problem the Memphis mayor classifies as a community health crisis.

Mayor Wharton launched an online campaign urging young people to put down their guns this summer.

"I'm asking you, yes you the young folks of our community to help me reduce gun violence in our great city," said the mayor.

Mayor Wharton has taken to Facebook and Twitter to issue his summer challenge. He is asking young people to sign a pledge to stop using weapons to settle their differences.

"It's not enough to say I'm not going to use guns. Make sure that those around you don't resort to having anything to do with guns," he said.

The war on youth violence kicked into high gear in January when a Central High School teen was shot to death by another teen. Terrence Wilkins is among the more than 400 victims under age 24 shot and killed since 2008.

Doug McGowan is heading up the mayor's innovation delivery team that is implementing a seven part strategy to reduce youth gun violence. The first three rolled out this week include mentoring, intervention programs, and special training for police officers.

Adults cannot solve the problem of youth violence without young people who are willing to join the effort.

That is why Mayor Wharton is taking the summer to challenge teens who typically get into more trouble when they're not at school.

The city is also offering a prize for whomever submits the best slogan for reducing violence.

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