BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The ‘Mothers Against Gun Violence’ spoke Thursday in a rally near the steps of Biloxi’s City Hall.
These mothers shared the stories of their children, who were victims of gun violence or gun play, in hopes of saving others. More than a dozen pictures of the slain children were on display as a representation of the need for a change in gun laws.
The mother of Robert Tatum III, who was killed in May, said that parents need to be more engaged.
“Parents need to police their kids, and that’s just being honest and real," said Tatum’s mother Cheri Pittman. “You need to know what your kids are doing. Like that statement that comes on every night at 10:00. ′It’s 10:00, do you know where your kids are?’ You need to know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, when they’re doing it. ‘You can’t lock your door in my house. You live in my house, you can’t lock your door.’ As a parent, you need to parent. Your kids don’t need more friends, you need to be a parent, not a friend.”
More than 100 shots were fired during the drive-by shooting in May that left 18-year-old Robert Tatum dead. Police said multiple people fired shots from five white vehicles that drove by the graduation party.
Gulfport Police confirmed this week that Tatum was “an active participant with a firearm,” saying he was in one of the five cars that pulled up at the scene of the shooting. Tatum’s mother said her son was returning fire from another shooter, but police would not confirm that.
“How do you not know that your child has a gun in the house? Because you’re not paying attention," said Pittman. “I’m not going to say that I’ve been the best parent, because I haven’t. We all make mistakes. But we need to start by being parents.”
Biloxi Councilman Felix Gines was at the rally on Thursday and talked about how local law enforcement is working hard to curb the violence among Coast youth, but also talked about the need for more community involvement with the city’s youth.
“First of all, we need to find out who’s bringing the guns in," Gines said. “We trust our local law enforcement to do those things there, to find out where it’s coming from and how the kids are getting them. We will deal with it on that end of it. What we as a city need to start looking at is the possibility of helping out from a recreational standpoint, finding things for kids to do, such as building a community center or what have you.”
At the end of the day, though, Gines agreed with Pittman, saying it’s up to the parents to step up.
“Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the parents. We need our parents to be parents. If the parents are not parents, it makes our jobs as elected officials tougher,” said Gines. "We, as elected officials, need to find things for our kids to do and recreations opportunities are usually the outlet for most kids.”
Gulfport Police have charged two suspects in the drive-by shooting at the May graduation party. Brandon Walker, 20, and Sukrani Blakely, 19, with one count each of tampering with evidence related to the shooting, but no one has been charged at this time for Tatum’s murder.