After passing a key vote, common sense legislation to prevent gun violence is once again in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association. For the second week, MaKayla’s Law is the sole piece of legislation under fire by the NRA in their weekly action alert. Last week, recipients were instructed to “Oppose Legislation that Impacts Your Rights” and this week, recipients were warned to oppose this “Anti-Gun Legislation.”
“MaKayla’s Law is a simple, common sense bill that has the support of district attorneys, the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and responsible gun owners across the state,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project. “The law simply says that if you leave your loaded gun laying around, and a child injures or kills themselves or someone else with it, you’ve committed a crime.”
The Safe Tennessee Project worked with legislators to draft MaKayla’s Law in response to the alarming number of child-involved shootings over the last fifteen months. Safe Tennessee is the only organization raising awareness about the issue of safe storage and notes that the NRA, despite their commitment to firearm safety, never acknowledged the problem in the state and has offered no useful solutions to the problem.
“Other states have passed similar laws and they have proven more effective than sending someone in an eagle costume to tell young kids not to touch a gun. The NRA’s intentional misinformation and insistence that this will affect your right to own a gun is baffling, and frankly, shameful.”
In their action alert, the NRA claims that current law is adequate to prosecute reckless gun owners, but Tennessee district attorneys say that’s not the case. It also points to the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program, a well-intentioned program that instructs kids to “stop, don’t touch, run away, and tell a grown-up.” But over the last fifteen months, Eddie Eagle has failed to prevent the deaths of a staggering 12 children in Tennessee. In that same time period, another 17 children were injured, some very seriously.
“Of course we support gun safety training for children of all ages,” said Roth. “But the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation both point out that the most important responsibility a gun owner has is keeping guns locked up and out of the hands of children. Many of the kids that have been injured and killed in Tennessee were toddlers. Any parent, grandparent, or teacher will tell you that telling a toddler or young child not do something and expecting them to reliably follow instructions is unrealistic. In too many cases in Tennessee, it’s proven fatal.”
Senate Bill 2294, known as MaKayla’s Law, creates a Class C felony in cases where a gun is left loaded and within reach of a child 13 and under, and that child dies or shoots someone to death as a result. If the child injures themselves or someone else, they would be charged with a Class E felony. The bill, like most legislation, was amended from its original filing. The NRA is well aware of the changes, but purposefully does not address them in their action alert.
“This law would have absolutely no impact whatsoever on any responsible gun owner,” Roth said. “The only people this law will affect are those whose irresponsibility led to the injury or death of a child.”
“What’s more important? Protecting irresponsible gun owners or protecting kids? The NRA’s relentless determination to kill this bill indicates they side with irresponsible gun owners.”
The bill passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee Wednesday by a 3-2 vote and will be considered by the full committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
Regardless of the outcome of the votes, The Safe Tennessee Project vows to continue the conversation on safe storage.
CHILDREN WITH ACCESS TO GUNS IN TENNESSEE – BY THE NUMBERS
29 incidents of a child finding a loaded gun, discharging it and injuring or killing themselves or someone else.
17 resulted in injuries
12 resulted in deaths
In 2015, there were 24 incidents.
14 resulted in injuries
10 resulted in deaths, including 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer
Since January of 2016, there have been 5 incidents.
3 resulted in injuries
2 resulted in deaths