'A lot of people thinking that, 'I got a gun in my house. I'm safe.' But that's not the case. Most of the time it's the innocent one getting hurt.'
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of gun violence that some readers may find disturbing
A 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a stray bullet in the early hours of Christmas morning had written a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee expressing concern about gun violence just before winter break, reports The Washington Post. In his letter, young Artemis Rayford told Lee that his school's anti-violence initiative with the Memphis Police Department—the Gang Resistance Education and Training program—had been discussing a law that went into effect in July, that allows people 21 and older and military service members 18 and up, to carry a weapon without any training or permit.
Artemis Rayford was 12 when he wrote a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee opposing permitless carry: “…it is my opinion that this new law will be bad, and people will be murdered.” Artemis was fatally shot on Christmas morning by a stray bullet. #tnleg https://t.co/gnrZoe9GGN— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) January 22, 2022
"I am a sixth-grader at Sherwood Middle School, and it is my opinion that this new law will be bad, and people will be murdered," Artemis wrote in the letter. "I think that people should not have a gun... Some of [these] people get guns to kill people so people that [are] 21 and up should not have guns. They [should] learn how to use a gun to help you." It's unclear whether the letter was ever actually sent to Lee or whether the governor has come across it on social media yet. One of Artemis's teachers reportedly sent a photo of the letter to the boy's devastated mother after hearing about the youngster's tragic death.
😳 MEMPHIS 6TH GRADER TO GOV. LEE: “PEOPLE WILL BE MURDERED.” #ArtemisRayford wrote a letter to @GovBillLee about his reckless Permitless Carry bill (opposed by police) —-he was killed by a bullet Christmas morning.— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) January 22, 2022
More guns do not make us safer.
FULL: https://t.co/ROVBSt6ro4 pic.twitter.com/1Z86csWkPX
According to WREG, Artemis was playing a new video game he received for Christmas inside his home on Haynes Street in the Orange Mound neighborhood when a bullet entered his chest. Joyce Newson, the boy's grandmother who described him as "a bright kid with a bright future," revealed that Artemis died in his mother's arms. "When he got shot, the only thing he could do was run to his mama," Newson said. "It took her two days to wash the blood off her hands."
At 2:26 am this morning, officers made the scene of a shooting at 1013 Haynes St. and located a male shot. The victim was xported to LeBonheur critical and was pronounced deceased. There is no suspect information. The investigation is ongoing. Please call 901-528-CASH with tips.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) December 25, 2021
The grieving 65-year-old said she couldn't help but notice the irony when she read her grandson's letter addressed to Lee. "I read this letter or two or three times," Newson said. "He wrote this letter not even knowing that he was going to be killed by the gun." She added that she hopes the governor would see the letter on local news and be inspired to put an end to gun violence but doubts that it will. "The governor hasn't reached out," she said. "That's why it's only going to be thrown up under the rug. 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."
Artemis Rayford wrote a letter to the Tennessee Governor expressing concern over the state's new gun law. The sixth grader was killed by a stray bullet Christmas morning. https://t.co/juQIbNL44u— JAM'N 107.5 (@JAMN1075) January 25, 2022
Newson shared that her large family gathered at her oldest daughter's home on Christmas Eve, wearing pajamas. "It didn't dawn on me that it would be my last time seeing him," she said of the boy family members called "Shun." Newson was woken up at 2:38 a.m. on December 25 by a phone call giving her the earth-shattering news of her grandson's death. "I have a lot of grandkids but Shun was the pack of the party. He made the party," she said. Newson revealed that her daughter hasn't returned to the home where Artemis died in her arms. His blood still stains the mattress where he was sitting when the bullet struck him.
The boy's younger sister, who saw her brother take his final breath, is also "having a hard time" coming to terms with Artemis' death, Newson said. "The last thing I said to Shun was, 'Shun, stop running in this girl's house,'" she recalled, remembering him as the grandson who was always active and full of energy. "A lot of people thinking that, 'I got a gun in my house. I'm safe.' But that’s not the case. Because most of the time with them, who's the one getting hurt? It's the innocent one," Newson said. "They think these guns are going to save them but it's really not. It's got to be another solution besides using guns."