Artemis Rayford: 12-year-old who wrote to Tennessee governor opposing gun law shot and killed by stray bullet

Gun law in question, championed by Governor Bill Lee, allows people over the age of 21 to carry a weapon without training or a permit in Tennessee

Tom Fenton
Monday 24 January 2022 18:43 GMT
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A 12-year-old boy who wrote a letter to his governor asking for tighter gun ownership restrictions was killed just weeks later, after being struck by a stray bullet.

Artemis Rayford penned the letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who had just introduced new laws reducing gun restrictions in the state.

The young Sherwood Middle School student wrote that the law, which allows people aged 21 and older to carry a weapon without any training or permit, would “be bad and people will be murdered”, first reported.

It's not yet clear whether the letter managed to reach Governor Lee, while Shelby County Schools didn't respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

Artemis’ life was taken tragically early on Christmas morning last year, when he was hit by a stray bullet that came from outside the Memphis home he shared with his mother and sister.

When school teachers found out about his death, one of them sent his mother a photo of the letter that was addressed to Governor Lee.

Artemis’ letter to the Governor (WREG)

The boy’s grandmother, Joyce Newson, read the letter and was profoundly struck by the irony. Ms Newson said she hoped the governor would see the letter on local news, adding that she wants Artemis’s letter to bring more attention to gun laws.

“The governor hasn’t reached out,” she said. “That’s why it’s only going to be thrown up under the rug.”

Tennessee Gov Bill Lee (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The murder rate in the city of Memphis has been steadily rising for the past few years, with a record 346 homicides reported in 2021. According to WREG, about 150 children were treated for bullet wounds last year, while 31 were killed.

Sgt. Louis C. Brownlee, a spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department, claimed that investigators are looking into “this senseless act of violence” and that the department is asking people in the area to submit tips about what they saw that holiday night.

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