A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that seven states — West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee — all suffered from disproportionately high rates of unintentional firearm deaths and that none of the states have laws requiring the safe storage of guns.
“As someone who tracks accidental shootings here in Tennessee, I am not surprised by these findings,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “Accidental shootings, including those involving children with access to unsecured, loaded guns, happen with alarming frequency in Tennessee. And, as we noted earlier this week, we have seen an alarming uptick in incidents from last this time last year. There have been five accidental shootings in Tennessee just since Valentine’s Day. We are now triple where we were this time last year.”
All five of the most recent accidental shootings happened in public places, including an incident where a permit holder accidentally discharged his handgun at work while using the restroom.
“There are currently a number of bills under consideration that seek to expand where permit holders can carry guns. A few bills actually seek to eliminate gun permits altogether,” Roth said. “Given the number and frequency of accidental shootings in this state, increasing the number of places people can carry guns while also pushing legislation to no longer require any training to carry in public makes no sense.”
Accidental Shootings Involving Adults – Five Incidents in Eight Days:
February 23 – Memphis
Corky’s employee accidentally shoots himself in parking lot.
February 22 – Greeneville
City official accidentally shoots himself as he exits city-owned vehicle.
February 20– Knoxville
A woman was accidentally struck by a ricocheted bullet at a shooting range.
February 16– Knoxville
While at work, a permit holder accidentally discharged his weapon while using the restroom.
February 14– Memphis
A man in an adult bookstore accidentally discharged his gun while reaching for his cellphone in his pocket. He had a permit but it expired in 2013.
Children are often injured and too often killed in accidental shootings. In some cases, the child is injured when an adult is cleaning a gun or handling it in an irresponsible way, but the most common way children are injured or killed in accidental shootings is when they or another child accesses loaded gun. Ten Tennessee children died in this way in 2015. So far in, 2016, a 7-year-old boy was killed when his brother found a loaded gun in their mother’s purse.
Yesterday, Senator Sara Kyle and Representative Sherry Jones unveiled a bill to deter parents from leaving loaded guns accessible to children. The Safe Tennessee Project worked with the legislators to bring the bill.
In the Johns Hopkins report, researchers noted: “Restricting access for unauthorized individuals through safe storage of firearms might help to reduce the large disparity of unintentional firearm deaths occurring in these states.”
Considering the number of Tennessee lives lost each year to accidental shootings, any and all steps that could reduce the number of deaths and injuries must be taken.