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Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy on 2nd major shooting in the last 10 days


Of the nearly 250 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, two have happened in Chattanooga, Tenn., in the last 10 days. Early on Sunday morning, three people were killed and 14 injured outside a nightclub. A week prior, six people, all teenagers, were shot in an altercation between groups. Chattanooga's police department says these are not linked and that before these last couple of weeks, gun violence was actually down this year.

Well, Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy joins me now with more information. Chief Murphy, welcome.

CELESTE MURPHY: Yes, thank you so much for having me.

KELLY: Let's talk about this - just the most recent shooting this past weekend. Do you have any updates on identifying the suspect or what the motive might have been here?

MURPHY: Well, we have a couple of motives that we're working on. We are still very much so combing through some leads. It's a complex investigation, so nothing that we want to put out there right now till we completely verify all the facts that we have. But we are still working some good active leads.

KELLY: I said that y'all don't believe these are related in any way. But still, two mass shootings in over two weekends, two back-to-back weekends. What do you attribute this to?

MURPHY: It's just the access to extremely dangerous illegal firearms in the wrong hands. The one weekend we had very, very young teenagers who had access to guns, and absolutely it's a recipe for disaster. And so, you know, we're just making sure that we just keep, you know, intentionally seeking out and finding as many illegal guns as we can and getting them off the streets and out of the wrong hands.

KELLY: And I want to ask for specifics in terms of what your department can do to try to keep things like this from happening again in your city.

MURPHY: Right. And I've always - you know, this was one of the - youth was one of the points that I was - you know, worked towards what was going to be my goal here. And, you know, it's a two-pronged effort. It's focused deterrence, you know, making sure that we focus on our youth as well and putting them in programming that's going to give them options to steer them in a better path but not at all being soft on crime. So we will be holding people accountable that have guns in their hands illegally and doing the wrong thing.

KELLY: I know your job is to enforce the law, not make laws, but I do want to ask about something that the mayor there said. This is Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, an independent. He was talking to CNN this morning and saying he wants to see what he called common sense approaches to gun regulation laws. Do the measures he is calling for - would they make your job and the job of your officers easier?

MURPHY: Absolutely. I mean, it makes sense, right? So, you know, anything that we can, you know, use to help abate some of the situations, you know, we would just - it just appears as though there's just too much easy access to these weapons in the wrong hands. And, you know, we are seizing, you know, guns every day. We're getting guns off the street. Last year in and of itself, with seized, oh, almost 1,200 guns that were illegally obtained by people. And, you know, we're just asking people to please just, you know, secure your weapons and know where your children are.

KELLY: Yeah. We just have a few seconds left, but I'm curious what the conversation is like when you speak with your counterparts, with police chiefs in other cities these days?

MURPHY: Yeah, we're all seeing the same thing, but we always keep in touch so that we make sure we keep hearing what's best practices and, you know, just giving each other advice and making sure, you know, with business that support measure there for all of us at the same time (ph).

KELLY: That is the chief of police in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Celeste Murphy. Chief Murphy, thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Elena Burnett
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