Remembering JaJuan: Bill could increase penalties in drive-by shootings

(WVLT) -- The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee has approved an act to strengthen penalties against those convicted of harming a minor during a drive-by shooting.

The bill is named the JaJuan Latham Act after a 12-year-old boy who was shot in his father's car after a "Stop the Violence" basketball game honoring JaJuan's cousin, Zaevion Dobson.

Dobson was also killed in a drive-by shooting just months earlier while shielding several girls from gunfire.

“This legislation was written to address the real problem of drive-by shootings, which we have seen on the rise in Tennessee, particularly in Knox County,” said bill sponsor Senator Ricahrd Briggs (R-Knoxville). “Children are not being killed in bank robberies, burglaries or hold-ups; they are getting killed in drive-by shootings.”

The bill establishes increased penalties against an individual if the discharge a firearm from a vehicle and it harms a child.

“These offenders have no regard for life or innocent people, particularly children, and that is why we are asking for enhanced penalties for this horrible crime. This legislation will serve as a deterrent, while protecting the lives of our youngest and most innocent citizens,” Briggs concluded.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before it moves to a final vote.