MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Americans think about shootings in Parkland, Florida, Las Vegas and even closer to home at the Waffle House in Nashville when they think about guns and how they affect living in the U.S. And then there are shootings nearly every day in Memphis and the surrounding areas.
But many disagree on how to change course.
WREG spoke with two men who have both experienced gun trauma; one sees the weapons as protection, the other as harmful aggressors. We challenged them to come to an agreement about a possible solution to the gun violence epidemic.
Reginald Johnson lost his son Samuel at age 21 when he was shot in front of their home on his way to the gym.
“He wasn’t gone more than 20 minutes until someone knocked on the door and said, ‘Sam laying in the street,’” Johnson said.
His son’s memory haunts him; he stopped working to focus on a new cause.
"The gun violence in the city of Memphis is out of hand," he said.
Like Johnson, Jeff Droke also focuses on a traumatic experience: being attacked outside his own home with his 11-year-old daughter inside.
“I didn’t expect to get up that morning and have some assassin at my door," Droke said. “I lunged at him and grabbed him by the throat and he shot me here and here,” he said, gesturing to his neck and head.
But for Jeff, one thing helped save him.
“I got my Beretta 9mm,” he said. “I think the gun was instrumental in saving my life and whatever mayhem he could have done with my daughter.”
Both fathers live in Memphis. They don’t know each other. WREG brought them together for a conversation — one that most Americans won’t have face-to-face.
They were a lot more civil than you might expect. When they didn’t agree, they moved on to what they could agree on and found common ground.
Watch the video to hear what they discussed.
In the end, Johnson and Droke didn’t fight over things they disagreed on like more gun laws, background checks and raising age requirements.
Instead, they focused on agreeing on tactics like stricter sentencing for first-time offenders, enforcing the full length of a criminal sentence and getting federal prosecutors to pick up more gun cases.
"We have a lot in common. We thinking a lot alike because these guns aren’t getting in criminals’ hands by accident," Johnson said.
They provided hope that with compassion and talking face-to-face, we can all reach an understanding.
Johnson and Droke also agreed they have doubts about whether they can make an impact.
But they said all they can do is try.
If you or someone you know is interested in attending the Shelby County gunshot survivors' group, they meet at noon on the first and third Thursday of each month at Shelby County Crime Services, 1750 Madison Avenue.