If the charges in a police report are true, Antravion Greer should’ve stayed gone.
This past Saturday, Greer allegedly unleashed bullets that sent parents and children scrambling for cover at America’s Incredible Pizza Company. He apparently had already been kicked out of the Cordova food and arcade establishment for brawling with another family.
But instead of staying away from the source of his angst, instead of taking a walk, or a drive, or going into an empty room or park to scream, Greer allegedly returned with a gun. According to a police affidavit, the feud resumed, and he started shooting.
The gunfire spun customers into a panic and left Greer’s mother, Angela Greer, and Peyton McDaniel, who was the suspected target of his ire, wounded. Both survived their injuries.
Now, at age 21, Greer faces charges ranging from attempted first-degree murder and tampering with evidence – Greer apparently threw the gun beneath a car. If convicted, he will be gone. To prison.
For a longer time than it would have taken for him to stay gone from Incredible Pizza.
But sadly, in an age where schools, churches and stores are frequent targets of mass shooters and others who use violence to vent, Greer isn’t unique.
Whether they are firing guns at someone out of anger, as Greer is accused of doing, or angst toward everyone, as many mass shooters do, as long as guns are viewed less as instruments for defense and more for vengeance, someone will use them. At any time. In any place.
And no one is safe. Not even children.
“To act out in public like that was once seen as bringing disrespect to your family, but no one thinks like that anymore,” said Charles Gallagher, a professor of criminal justice and sociology at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.
“Now, it’s different … I imagine what happened was that this was a situation where ‘You disrespected me in front of my people, and I’m going to come back with my gun’…
“There’s no one answer to this [public violence]. We’re seeing mass shootings [shootings in which four or more people are killed or wounded] go up across the nation. One reason that is happening is because we’re awash in guns, and younger people having a gun and not understanding the consequences.” A spokesman for Incredible Pizza said the company will announce new security measures this week. Attempts to reach corporate spokespeople for Main Event and Dave & Buster's, two other popular food and entertainment emporiums, on their security measures were unsuccessful.
Also unclear is how Greer managed to enter Incredible Pizza again after being thrown out.
But what I do know is this: The shooting at Incredible Pizza, as well as the rash of mass shootings and the proliferation of guns across the nation, mean it’s time for all establishments that offer food, entertainment and escape to send patrons through metal detectors or metal wands.
We just don’t live in the kind of world where we can afford not to.
"It is probably getting close to the point now where individuals, as well as citizens, may have to do more to protect themselves and their property, and that may include more enhanced techniques and apparatus, specifically wands and other metal detection devices," said KB Turner, chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis.
"Unfortunately, police officers can't be around all the time, and their resources are already stressed, so another level of protection may be needed."
Such a step would be depressing, but not unique.
Courthouses send visitors through metal detectors, as some could easily shoot at a judge or at anyone who they believed either didn’t give or get the justice they deserved.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequent terrorist attempts, forced airports to screen passengers not only for weapons but for liquids that exceed 3.4 ounces – lest they might contain a chemical that could cause havoc on a flight.
Sports venues like the FedEx Forum screen people for firearms, tiny mace canisters, and anything that angry fans could aim at a referee or a trash-talking spectator. And many roadhouses and adult clubs where rowdiness tends to rule began using wands and patting down patrons long ago.
Now, because of what happened at Incredible Pizza and because of the prevalence of guns – something which will, in all likelihood, be abetted by Tennessee’s permitless carry law – it’s time to screen patrons who are just looking to play some games and to have pizza and birthday cake.
“Imagine a police officer, who has pistol training, and who has to keep training to keep up because they aren’t always accurate,” Gallagher said.
“Now, imagine a 17-year-old who starts shooting in a pizza parlor. You know there’s going to be errant bullets, there’s going to be stray bullets, there’s going to be collateral damage, because they don’t know what they’re doing…”
That's a formula for turning a birthday party into a future funeral procession.
Screening people for weapons at game arcades, restaurants, and places where people gather to indulge in escapism might seem harsh. No parent wants their children, at least in that space, to be reminded of a world where guns and other weapons exist to hurt them.
They want to take their children to places where they can revel in childhood pleasures and make childhood memories; memories that metal detection wands and inspection upon entry ideally, shouldn’t be a part of.
And all patrons want to be treated as patrons, and not as potential perpetrators.
But while metal detectors or wands at the entrance of such places - some may already have them - might force parents of young children to have a difficult conversation with them, that conversation will be more difficult if their children have to duck for cover to avoid being shot by someone inside a pizza and game arcade, or worse, if they see someone fatally shot before their eyes.
Also, a grittier reality lurks behind this dilemma: The reality that many young Black men, many of whom are from communities that are socially and economically isolated, resort to violence during arguments to defend the only credibility they’ve been duped into believing they possess.
That credibility being street credibility.
“If you know you aren’t going to Yale, if you know you’re not going to be a doctor, or a lawyer or a teacher, then all you have is your street credibility,” Gallagher said. “So, if someone disses you, or questions your masculinity, if you don’t respond appropriately, you are a mark. You are weak…
“If you don’t step up, everyone knows you didn’t step up. And the way to step up is with a gun.”
What’s also tragic here – besides the fact that spaces for fun must now be guarded spaces – by allegedly stepping up with a gun, Greer will have to step out of the lives of his family.
For a long time.
“Here’s the reality. This young man is going to jail.” Gallagher said. “He’ll be taken out of his community for five to 10 years…
“All because of this moment when he couldn’t control his temper and he had access to a handgun.”
Tonyaa Weathersbee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter: @tonyaajw