Hamilton County DA invoking state law to curb local gun violence

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – The Hamilton County DA’s office is cracking down on local gun violence by capitalizing on a new state law.

“We’re hoping that this can, those that are repeating the violence,
pushing violence in the city and in the county, if effectively
prosecuted that they’ll go away and serve more time,” says Hamilton County District Attorney General, Neal Pinkston.

Currently, a felon convicted of committing a crime with a firearm must
serve a minimum of 30 percent of their sentence.

This new law bumps that minimum up to 85 percent.

“It focuses on individuals that are prohibited from being in
possession of a firearm, felony firearm based on prior convictions,
prior felony convictions,” says Pinkston.

The law, which goes into effect July 1st, is part of the TARGET
initiative – a collaboration between local, state, and federal law
enforcement.

It comes after a string of local shootings, like the one in Coolidge
Park, last month.

“We’re just trying to focus on the one thing we can control and that’s
the prosecution of it,” Pinkston says.

But some say that getting more time behind bars won’t solve the whole problem.

Joe Smith is the executive director of Prison Prevention Ministries, a
faith-based rehabilitation service that focuses on steering criminals
in the right direction.

“Whatever the length of their sentence is, we start on day one.
Helping them get a GED if that’s what they need, helping them get
driver’s license back, helping them find a place to live,” says Smith, explaining the specifics of what his program does.

And much like City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said at a press
conference addressing the uptick in violence, Smith says the community
has to be involved.

“The community needs to help with that. We can’t just depend on law
enforcement, our courts, to solve this problem. You and I have got to
be a part of the solution,” says Smith, discussing the community’s role.

He argues that programs like his, that focus on education and
job-training, can be more effective.

“Until there’s a change in a man’s heart, they’re going to continue to
make bad choices and so many of them re-offend and end up right back
in prison,” he says.

Categories: Chattanooga, Crime, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News