As state lawmakers debated MaKayla’s Law, another name was added to the list of Tennessee children lost to preventable gun violence. Gavin Pittman, a 3-year-old little boy from Hamilton County, was killed on Monday when he found a loaded gun and unintentionally shot himself.
“So far this year, two young children have lost their lives when they came into contact with a loaded, unsecured gun,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “Three other children have been injured. The fact that these two little boys, the 7-year-old in Crossville and now the 3-year-old in Apison, lost their lives is heartbreaking. But the real tragedy is that their deaths were 100% preventable.”
MaKayla’s Law would hold a gun owner criminally responsible when the leave a loaded gun accessible to children, and that a child either intentionally or unintentionally uses it to kill another.
Last year, 10 Tennessee children died when they were shot with a gun left accessible to children and another fourteen were injured. The youngest victim was only 2-years-old.
The Safe Tennessee Project has been working with Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. Sherry Jones on MaKayla’s Law, named for 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer of White Pine, Tenn. MaKayla was shot by her 11-year-old neighbor when she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy. He used his father’s loaded shotgun. The boy has been convicted of murder but the boy’s father has not been charged with any crime and remains free.
“We fully support gun safety education initiatives, such as the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program,” Roth said. “All children need to be taught what to do when they encounter a gun.
“However, many of these incidents involve young kids. Telling a toddler not to touch a gun is simply not enough. Many of the older children who have been injured or killed were familiar with guns. They knew better but they made a bad choice. We all know that kids, even good kids, don’t always make good decisions. Not storing guns responsibly is a risk no responsible gun owner would ever take.”
District attorneys, guns store owners, law enforcement officers, have all spoken out in support of the bill. District Attorney General Ray Whitley told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he was in favor of the legislation and noted that, based on Tennessee’s castle doctrine, MaKayla’s Law would apply to incidents that take place in vehicles. Both of the Tennessee children unintentionally killed this year were in their family’s car.
MaKayla’s Law will be heard again in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15.