Artemis Rayford: 12-year-old wrote to TN Guv about gun laws, was shot days later
Despite a massive uptick in gun-related violence, Republican-led states have been eager to push constitutional carry laws. Tennessee became the 19th state to adopt permitless carry in July 2021, after Governor Bill Lee signed it into law in April despite massive opposition. Amongst those detractors was 12-year-old Artemis Rayford, who wrote to the Governor in December 2021 about the bill, but sadly didn't live to hear a response.
On December 25, Rayford became one of the more than 1,000 children killed in gun violence in 2021. Some of the other victims include seven-year-old Jaslyn Adams of Chicago, 10-year-old Justin Wallace of New York City, and nine-year-old Nigel Brown of Albany, Georgia. In almost all cases, the children were accidental victims who were unfortunately in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Yet, the National Rifle Association and Republicans argue in favor of constitutional carry, which would allow any adult to carry a gun without training or permit. In Tennessee, that means those above 21 or those above 18 who are serving in the military. Governor Lee also chose to overlook the state's drastically high death toll from gun violence, the 12th highest in the US. Plenty of people have fought back against the bill, and now the actions of one child are making waves.
Who is Artemis Rayford?
The 12-year-old was a resident of Memphis, where he lived with his mother and six-year-old sister. His sister described him as a "kind, sweet and innocent little boy, and he loved dancing. I never saw him mad or angry. He was just full of joy, full of life." On Christmas day in 2021, he was playing in the living room of his home when a stray bullet suddenly hit him in the chest. "When he got up he said ‘momma,’ and once he said momma, he just fell and collapsed," Doneisha Eddings told WJHL.com.
A student at Sherwood Middle School, Rayford played basketball and football for the Orange Mound Raiders. He was also a member of the Memphis Police Department’s Gang Resistance Education and Training program. His grandmother said he was "was always the party of the city," and noted, " I don’t know, from where he was sitting how the bullet could have hit him in the chest." So far, it appears as if the shooter still hasn't been apprehended, leaving the family without justice. The story has resurfaced in late January 2022, after it was revealed Rayford wrote to Lee about the state's permitless carry law.
On January 23, 2022, The Washington Post reported that Rayford wrote to the Governor shortly before the winter break. "It is my opinion that this new law will be bad and people will be murdered," he said. Shortly after he was killed, Rayford's teachers shared the letter with his mother and was made public by his grandmother Joyce Newson. "The governor hasn’t reached out. That’s why it’s only going to be thrown up under the rug," Newson told The Post.
"How did this child [who wrote] this letter about guns end up losing his life over a gun? What kind of coincidence is that? That’s powerful to me," she added. Rayford was laid to rest on January 8, 2022, becoming one of the 31 children to die because of gun violence in Memphis alone in 2021. So far, the Governor has refused to back down though and continued to back constitutional carry.