JaJuan Latham Act passes committee in Tennessee; would increase penalties for drive by shootings

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed legislation that would enhance penalties for harming a child with gunshots fired from a vehicle.

The bill, SB 10, sponsored by Republican Richard Briggs, is named after JaJuan Latham, a 12 year old boy who was killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting in his dad’s car. He had just finished attending a basketball game held in honor of his cousin, Zaevion Dobson, who was also killed in drive-by shooting. From WBIR:

“This legislation was written to address the real problem of drive-by shootings, which we have seen on the rise in Tennessee, particularly in Knox County,” said Senator Briggs.  “Children are not being killed in bank robberies, burglaries or hold-ups; they are getting killed in drive-by shootings.”

Briggs said many other states have enhanced penalties in place due to the reckless and wanton manner of the crime.

“These offenders have no regard for life or innocent people, particularly children, and that is why we are asking for enhanced penalties for this horrible crime.  This legislation will serve as a deterrent, while protecting the lives of our youngest and most innocent citizens,” Briggs concluded.

While I’m cognizant of the often troubling way in which enhancing penalties for firearms crimes can disproportionately impact different communities, LEAP Forward is scoring support for this legislation, but I’ll continue to closely track the bill and any amendments that may be attached in the future.

The vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was unanimous, and the bill will now move to the Ways and Means Committee, where it is expected to be approved for a floor vote.