Saying the homicide rate among African American men has reached “a public health crisis in this state,” Knoxville lawmaker Rick Staples is calling on the state to study the causes.

Staples, D-Knoxville, has filed a bill in the state House of Representatives to study causes and suggest action.

The legislation (HB1545) uses data from the Violence Policy Center, a national nonprofit “that conducts research, offers public education, and provides the public and policymakers with analysis and information on the issue of violence in America,” according to a news release from Staples.

African American homicide rate 5 times greater

Data from the Center shows the homicide rate among African American men in Tennessee is five times greater than the overall homicide rate and eight points greater than the national rate for African American victims, according to Staples.

“These numbers are extremely disheartening. African American men are being killed across the state at an incredible rate,” he said.

“We have to get to the root of the problem, find solutions and implement them quickly,” Staples said.

The bill would require the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct the study and report back, with proposed solutions, no later than Jan. 31, 2021.